(Aug. 8, 2008) WASHINGTON—The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) congratulates Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe on his victory in the race to be the Republican nominee for Tennessee's 1st District seat in the U.S. Congress. The HSLF had endorsed Roe and targeted first-term Congressman David Davis for defeat. Davis was one of only 39 members of the U.S. Congress who voted against the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act last year—a measure offered by a Republican House member that upgraded the federal law to combat dogfighting and cockfighting. The bill passed overwhelmingly and was signed into law by President Bush.
Phil Roe criticized Davis' vote on that issue, making it clear that he supports animal welfare and opposes illegal animal fighting. In a move that must have caused heartburn at the Davis campaign headquarters, a cockfighting group called the East Tennessee Gamefowl Breeders Association rallied for Davis and posted pro-Davis messages on various animal fighting web sites just 48 hours before the election. The HSLF mobilized hundreds of animal advocates throughout the district, encouraging them to turn out and vote for Roe. The animal fighting issue—especially in the wake of the Michael Vick case in nearby Virginia—clearly made a difference in this tight race, and Roe defeated Davis by approximately 460 votes.
"David Davis' opposition to stronger penalties for animal fighting cost him much-needed votes, contributing to his political defeat," said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "Phil Roe ran a great campaign, but the role that animal fighting played in the race should serve as notice to other legislators that voters want common-sense policies to stop cruelty and abuse, and prefer candidates who support robust penalties for animal fighting crimes."
Animal fighting has also been a prominent issue in the Tennessee General Assembly. Earlier this year, legislation to make cockfighting a felony cleared the Judiciary committees in both the state House and Senate, but did not receive a vote in either chamber's Finance, Ways and Means committee. Tennessee has one of the weakest anti-cockfighting laws in the country, and has become a magnet for cockfighters who flee the tougher penalties in neighboring states. The FBI shut down two major cockfighting pits in Cocke County (within the 1st Congressional District) in 2005, and unearthed animal cruelty, illegal gambling, prostitution, chop shops, and other criminal behavior. HSLF is calling on state lawmakers to strengthen the law to combat illegal cockfighting in the next legislative session.
HSLF is a nonpartisan organization that evaluates candidates based only on a single criterion: where they stand on animal welfare. HSLF does not judge candidates based on party affiliation or any other issue.
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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. On the web at hslf.org.
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