Clement says nation's security goes beyond defense

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bob Clement says the term "security" entails more than defense and homeland protection.
   A secure public education system, protection for Social Security, and a revived national economy were crucial in the nation's stability, Clement told supporters from the steps of Charles Sherrod Library at East Tennessee State University on Tuesday morning.
   "Where's the economic team to get this economy moving again?" said Clement, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Fred Thompson.
   The Clement Express began a three-day East and Middle Tennessee campaign swing Tuesday that included Johnson City, Greeneville, Oak Ridge, Chattanooga and Murfreesboro.
   Clement easily won the Democratic nomination with 82 percent of ballots cast in the state primary on Thursday.
   He will face former Gov. Lamar Alexander in the November election. Alexander defeated U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant of Henderson by a 54 to 43 percent margin to win the GOP nomination after a bitter primary battle.
   The self-described "congressman-at-large for Tennessee" said his campaign was receiving support from Bryant supporters in West and Middle Tennessee.
   "If there's anything as fine, pure and true as a Tennessee Democrat, it's a Clement Republican," said Clement.
   The Clement campaign on Monday accepted the endorsement of the National Education Association (NEA) Fund for Children and Public Education and Tennessee Education Association.
   His campaign has included a "Security of a Solid Education" agenda to restore character and civic education and oppose school voucher programs.
   "There is no easier way to create a healthy middle class than a strong education system," said Clement. "We must ensure that our children leave school with a good understanding of both the structure and the principles of American democracy, and what it means to be an American citizen."
   The congressman said as senator he would strongly support an infrastructure bank for education to support building or repairing public education facilities. He said he would also advocate enforcing the collection of student loans to increase the availability of college loans.
   He also continued to push to add prescription drug benefit to Medicare.
   Clement has accumulated a $1.2 million war chest to wage his campaign against Alexander in the general election.
   He scoffed Alexander's past statements that if elected to the Senate, Clement would be "moving his desk" between liberal Democratic Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
   "Mr. Alexander doesn't seem to know much about moving desks," said Clement. "I'll be moving my desk between Sen. Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat from Georgia, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, another conservative Democrat."
   According to information compiled by Congressional Quarterly, Clement has voted with President Bush's initiatives more than 50 percent of the time in the past year.
   Clement voted on legislation with the Democratic party 73 percent in 2001 and 52 percent with President Bush in 2001. Those numbers were 74 percent and 57 percent in 2000 -- President Clinton's final year in office.
   He stated he fully supports President Bush's efforts on Homeland Security and the nation's War on Terror.
   "I think when (Alexander) calls me a liberal, he means I am a liberator and I'm going to liberate the state of Tennessee from the Sundquist/Alexander administration once and for all," said Clement.
   A graduate of the University of Tennessee and Memphis University, Clement spent two years in the U.S. Army and 29 years in the Tennessee Army National Guard.
   He has served on the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority and as president of Cumberland University as well as running private insurance and management firms.
   Clement was elected to the U.S. House in 1990. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and a member of the House Budget Committee.