The decision caps weeks of questions about whether the former governor, who has been running on a message of political independence, would back President Donald Trump’s high court pick, despite Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations and the divide over how they should affect Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Bredesen’s announcement Friday came just moments before Senate votes were tallied on a favorable motion to bring Kavanaugh’s nomination to a final vote Saturday.
Bredesen said Friday that Ford is a “heroine” who “has brought forcefully into the national conversation the many barriers women face in reporting and dealing with sexual harassment and assault.” He said he was “disgusted” by how the Senate treated her and is “determined to help bring about a fairer and far more respectful treatment of these issues.”
He also said presidents have the right to appoint justices who share their values and elections have consequences. He added that a senator’s responsibility should be to focus on the qualifications of the nominee, their ethics and their temperament.
“I believed that Judge Kavanaugh initially met this test, and I was prepared to say ‘yes’ to his nomination prior to Dr. Ford’s coming forward,” Bredesen said in the statement. “While the subsequent events make it a much closer call, and I am missing key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has, I’m still a ‘yes.‘”
Bredesen is ensnared in a tough contest with Republican U.S. Marsha Blackburn, who has chided him for holding out until now on saying how he would vote. Blackburn quickly came out in support of Kavanaugh when he was nominated and has not wavered.
“His campaign is bought and paid for by (Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer and national Democrats, including (former New York Mayor) Michael Bloomberg,” Blackburn said in a statement Friday, referring to an upcoming Bloomberg fundraiser for Bredesen. “He put off an answer on Judge Kavanaugh for 88 days, under Chuck Schumer’s direction to stay neutral as long as you can.”
The statement of support for Kavanaugh is the latest move for Bredesen to insulate himself from criticisms by Republicans who say he’ll align with Democrats in Washington. At a debate last month, Bredesen said he would not vote for Schumer for majority leader if he’s elected. The Tennessee contest is key for Democrats, who are hoping to overturn a 51-49 Republican Senate majority.
But the Kavanaugh decision could also contain pitfalls for Bredesen. He still needs Democratic enthusiasm at the polls and has enjoyed an advantage over Blackburn in polling among women.