For diabolical fiendishness on the epic scale of Jen vs. Angie, political watchers are anxiously awaiting this summer's tooth-and-polished-nail grudge match between state Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Susan Lynn.
Their long feud seems ripped from the pages of the tabloids. Both live in Mt. Juliet, and both are apostles of the far right. On guns and God and getting the guvment off our backs, they are in complete agreement. But that's the end of their common ground.
While Beavers was sick with cancer in 2004, she accused Lynn of scheming to steal her Senate seat. Among many offenses, Lynn has charged Beavers with planting a spy in her legislative office.
Beavers intended to leave the Senate this year and was running for Wilson County mayor. That prompted the ambitious Lynn to start campaigning for Beavers' seat. But then the senator's anointed successor, furniture-store owner A.J. McCall, withdrew from the race, giving Lynn a clear shot. Suddenly, Beavers reversed course and decided to run for re-election after all rather than watch Lynn move up from the House. The stunned Lynn refused to back out, pitting the two of them in the Republican primary from hell.
What's caused all the bad blood? According to Lynn, Beavers' relentless torment of her over the span of this decade has lent new meaning to the term vindictive.
"I've had hell to pay," Lynn tells the Scene.
Beavers wouldn't comment for this article. But when we asked Lynn about their quarrelling, she didn't stop talking for nearly an hour as she laid out her case against her nemesis, playing the role of the aggrieved victim to the hilt.
"People have different moral compasses," Lynn says at one point. "My moral compass reacts one way, and hers obviously is different."
Lynn says the enmity started in 2002 when she ran against Beavers' candidate for the state House, the sign company owner Bobby Joslin. After a brutal mudslinging campaign, Lynn emerged victorious — only to confront an angry Beavers demanding that she apologize to Joslin.
"I had just won the primary and she was calling me incessantly to apologize to him, and it didn't make any sense to me," Lynn says. "I won. He didn't even call and concede. ... So finally one day she came over to my headquarters with her campaign manager, and I said, 'You've got to give me one good reason why I should apologize to him.' And she said, 'Because I need his signs and I need his money' " for her own Senate campaign.
Lynn says she responded: "If God wants you to win, you can't lose."
"Well, with that," Lynn says of Beavers, "she was very angry." At which point, Lynn says she kicked Beavers out of her campaign headquarters. And "that was it" as far as their relationship went, Lynn adds with a sigh.
Two years later, Beavers sent an email to Republican leaders denouncing Lynn for plotting against her while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Lynn and her supporters were telling insiders that Beavers was dying and wouldn't run again, the senator claimed.
"I write this email to set the record straight on two issues," Beavers wrote. "First, I have full intentions of running again for my seat in 2006. Second, I am upset that anyone would use my illness for their own political ambitions."
Lynn denies conspiring against Beavers. "That is completely untrue," she says, "totally, absolutely made up by the senator."
Not long afterward, Lynn caught a legislative secretary forwarding one of her emails to Beavers. In that email, Lynn called Beavers' accusations "outrageous."
"I would never wish her ill," Lynn wrote. "I just want her to leave me alone and forget my very name."
Lynn now says the secretary was spying for Beavers. "She confessed," Lynn says of the secretary, who was fired.
Wilson County Republican Party Chairman John Worley says he's heard enough. Personally, he says he's stopped trying to figure out why Lynn and Beavers stay at each other's throats.
"A lot of the things that happen between them are just gossip, and a lot of times it's not even initiated by either one of them," he says.
Worley says he's trying to play the role of peacemaker, but the two antagonists won't agree to discussions with him. Worley holds out hope that they will somehow refrain from sinking into the mud in their campaign.
Everyone agrees a nasty name-calling primary will only help the Democratic nominee in November's election. Three Democrats are running, including well-known newspaper publisher Sam Hatcher. Ask Hatcher what he thinks about the Beavers-Lynn war, and he states what's certain to become the Democrats' main campaign theme.
"I think a lot of people are tired of the bickering and the fighting and the shouting and all that," Hatcher says. "I sort of tend to think that maybe the constituents up here really would rather see somebody sit down at a table and try to work out some of these problems dealing with the economy and jobs."
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