Sen. Stacey Campfield: The man behind the controversy

Sen. Stacey Campfield: The man behind the controversy

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"If somebody is going to make threats or insult me, I'm not going to be a pinata or a punching bag. Find somebody else," said Campfield. "If somebody is going to make threats or insult me, I'm not going to be a pinata or a punching bag. Find somebody else," said Campfield.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Whenever the name Stacey Campfield is mentioned in a sentence, the word controversy is usually at the other end.

The Tennessee lawmaker has made national headlines numerous times since he took office, most notably for the heated debate sparked by his proposed bills.

So who is the man behind the uproar?

6 News spoke to State Sen. Campfield at his office in Nashville to find out what's behind all that backlash.

As Campfield prepared for another busy day at the state Capitol, he said he never set out to be a politician.

He grew up in upstate New York, but says it was during discussion at yearly family reunions in Tennessee where he first developed his conservative political views.

"Being a little kid, I always loved listening in and every once in a while I'd throw in a comment here and there," said Campfield, a Knoxville Republican.

After moving to Knoxville at 25 to pursue his real estate career, he took a swing at office.

"You ought to think about running for that,' he remembers being told. "So I did. Spent a bunch of my own money and then lost, but came back the next year and won."

Campfield spent three terms in the State House before winning the District 7 Senate seat in 2010.

It seems that since the very day he left East Tennessee and headed to Nashville, it's been nothing but nonstop controversy.

His ideas for proposed legislation immediately received a lot of reaction from people.

Proposals like the Classroom Protection Act, not-so-affectionately dubbed the "Don't Say Gay Bill," brought negative emails flooding into Campfield's inbox.

"Death threats. 'I'm going to throw battery acid on your face. If I ever see you, I'm going to slash your tires. Burn your house down.' I mean, the whole nine yards," said Campfield, saying he receives thousands of emails every day.

He's caught flack for telling one writer to "seek therapy."

But Campfield says he is not backing down.

"If somebody is going to make threats or insult me, I'm not going to be a pinata or a punching bag. Find somebody else," said Campfield.

He was thrown out of Knoxville restaurant The Bistro for saying in an interview that homosexuals started HIV, and has become a late-night punch line on national TV and gossip sites like TMZ.

The Catholic, unmarried senator says he stands by his legislation.

He thinks the national attention is funny.

He blogs about it and even signs the online petitions working to put him out of office.

"If you're looking for somebody to cower down every time somebody says something negative, that's not me. I'm going to go out here and say you're wrong, here's what my bill does, and here's why it's right," said Campfield.

He believes criticism comes with politics, and for every person who hates him, he claims there are a lot more who like him.

"If I don't like it, I won't do it. I obviously like it because I keep doing it," he said.

He'll continue to work as, according to his blog, "just an average guy with a real cool job."

When asked about how all the negative national attention could affect people's view of Tennessee, he says he doesn't think people really notice.

Just a few weeks ago, Sen. Campfield got some new competition from within his own party for the next election.

Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs will run against Campfield in next year's Republican primary.

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