Meet The Cub: Rookie campaign manager grows up fast

Betty BeanFarragut, Feature

Recent Twitter exchange between candidate Tim Burchett and female constituent:

Constituent: “You seem to help with all kinds of things! Could you point me in the direction of a good man? Needing a date to get the $2 for $20 deal at Applebee’s on a regular basis. Must love kids and donuts. Other requirements negotiable.”

Burchett: “DJ KUB also known as the Cub is single.”

DJ KUB aka the Cub: “Unless she likes door knocking and Talladega nights I don’t have much to offer in this phase of my life.”

Andrew Davis has been Burchett’s campaign manager for nearly a year and is pretty sure he’s never going to outlive the nickname, so he figures he might as well embrace his shame. When his boss renames somebody, it tends to stick – just ask Michael “Big Sexy” Grider, who has worked for Burchett for eight years.

“I knew pretty early on that I’ll be 50 years old in this town and people will still be calling me The Cub,” Davis said.

Burchett is a candidate for the second congressional district seat that has been occupied by someone named Duncan since 1965 and has never been held by anyone but a Republican, raising the stakes and the tension in this year’s crowded GOP primary. Throw in a resentful lame duck, a vengeful ex-wife, a sprinkling of perpetually pissed-off cranks and a major opponent who’s willing to go lower than a Jamaican limbo stick, and you’ve got the nastiest race in the state, which is saying a mouthful, since Tennessee Republicans have turned politics into blood sport this year.

This isn’t the Cub’s first rodeo, but Burchett’s been running for stuff since he was in knee pants and expected to be taking incoming fire in this one. However, nobody could have predicted how bloody this battle would become, and the 23-year-old Cub surely couldn’t have expected the force of the onslaught. Good thing he’s built like a rugby player, because he’s right in the middle of the scrum.

Five years ago, Davis was graduating from Farragut High School. The following year, he was working in Jason Zachary’s campaign to unseat Jimmy Duncan. In 2016, he was county chair of Ted Cruz for President. Last year, he was graduating from UT with a degree in public relations (His parents are Bryan and Sara Davis and he has a brother, Luke, and a sister, Rebekkah).

Last week, Andrew Davis filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Burchett’s major opponent, Jimmy Matlock, for illegal coordination, charging that Matlock has been disguising campaign ads as commercials for his tire stores. Later that day, Matlock verbally attacked Davis at a South Knoxville public forum. Burchett was at a County Commission meeting, and Davis, who represented him there, said it was an uncomfortable scene.

“He referred to me as ‘This man,’ pointed two fingers at me and just stared. He called me a liar, point blank, and when I requested the opportunity to make a formal response, I was denied. I totally respect their decision, but he was given time to speak and spent a lot of it attacking my character. He said I have trouble with the truth and gave me 24 hours to tell the truth and publicly come forward. I didn’t say much, other than occasionally getting a word in, telling him he was incorrect. I did my best to remain calm and respectful.”

The 24-hour deadline passed uneventfully.

Davis said he has adopted Burchett’s philosophy regarding negative campaigning:

“Tim is a lot like Rocky. I know that’s rather trite and overused, but it’s true. If his opponents only knew how much harder he works, and how much his focus intensifies when they hit him, they wouldn’t do it. It just makes him mad. Inspires him to go a little longer and a little later, and that’s a good thing.”

He said he has no plans to run for office anytime soon (“Maybe when I’m old and gray) and has a hard time thinking long term right now.

“I don’t see anything beyond next Thursday.”

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