Friday, March 29, 2002

COSTAS TOUTS MEMPHIS' FORTUNE

COSTAS TOUTS MEMPHIS' FORTUNE

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2002 at 4:00 AM

TV sportscaster Bob Costas, doing a promo on AOL for his HBO program “On the Record,” took note this week of big sports news being made in (and on behalf of) the Bluff City. After beginning with a reference to the passing of television legend Milton Berle, Costas sequed into this: “Meanwhile, what a week it’s been for Memphis, Tennessee.On Monday, the city of Graceland gets named as host of the upcoming heavyweight showdown between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Then, that same night, the city’s new NBA team, the Grizzlies, with Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Pau Gasol, goes into Portland and rallies from 25 down to knock off the red-hot Trailblazers. Also, led by freshman phenom DajuanWagner, the Memphis Tigers reached the final of the NIT here at Madison Square Garden. In New York. So, whether Elvis is alive or not, Memphis still has Mike, Lennox, Pau, and Dajuan...”

And that, of course, was before the U of M Tigers beat South Carolina for the NIT basketball title.

Getting Noticed

As Sir Isaac Ford, candidate for county mayor, knows, it ain't necessarily easy.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2002 at 4:00 AM

With all the attention being given to people named Ford of late -- most notably, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who considered a race for the U.S. Senate; his father Harold Ford Sr., whose lucrative contracts pertaining to the state's TennCare program received extensive publicity; and Uncle John Ford, who floated a trial balloon for a congressional race in case his nephew made the Senate run -- other Fords have been left out.

To wit: Sir Isaac Ford, the congressman's youngest sibling, and Ophelia Ford, his aunt. Both are candidates in the forthcoming countywide elections, and neither has received extensive publicity for their political views. Ophelia Ford -- who is opposing her brother Joe Ford for the county commission seat he was recently appointed to by other commission members (and which was formerly held by the late Dr. James Ford, a sibling) has, however, been given in-depth treatment, both in the Flyer and in The Commercial Appeal, for her determination to break into the male-dominated inner sanctum of the political Ford family.

And several prominent local women will hold a reception for Ophelia Ford at the home of lawyer Jocelyn Wurzburg at 4744 Normandy this Thursday night.

No such treatment has yet been received by the 28-year-old Sir Isaac, who remains on the August general election ballot as an independent candidate for Shelby County mayor and whose candidacy, insofar as it has been thought of at all, has been dismissed as enigmatic or inconsequential.

The prevailing theory seems to be that young Ford was a family plant as a hedge against the possibility that Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, since withdrawn, might win the Democratic primary. (Byrd and the Fords have had their problems.) According to that theory, Isaac Ford's candidacy now is little more than a reminder to favored Democratic mayoral candidate AC Wharton that the family is still around and needs to be paid some heed.

Yet another theory is that the Isaac Ford candidacy is little more than a lark -- or at best an attempt by the candidate and brother Jake Ford, his presumptive campaign manager, to reach parity with other members of the family.

Through all this, Isaac Ford has maintained that his candidacy is serious and that he will end up being elected mayor. Concerning the fact that there have been few if any visible signs of that prospect, or even of his being in the race, Ford shrugs. "In politics, you don't want to peak too early." Eventually, he says, "someone as talented and young and charming as myself" will attract the right kind of notice.

Sir Isaac (that is his given name, and he signs himself that way, though the "Sir" is most often dropped among family and friends) hopes to begin getting the appropriate attention with the release of several "position papers," some of which he made over to the Flyer.

One of the papers is a broadside against the prospective victory of Wharton in the Democratic primary. "[I]f the democratic [sic] nominee is not either C.C. Buchanan, C.J. Cochran, or State Rep. Carol Chumney [all primary opponents of Wharton], then the democratic party will not have a viable, credible candidate with liberal views. They will have a democratic puppet controlled by republicans' [sic] money, and their conservative ways."

Ford's own candidacy "stands on more of a socialistic-capitalistic platform, and will encourage quality county development in the inner city and suburbs."

One plank in that platform is a more or less straightforward espousal of city/county consolidation with single-source funding for city and county schools.

Another plank would seem timely in view of the recently accomplished location of the Lewis/Tyson heavyweight championship bout at The Pyramid, with training camps to be located in Tunica. It envisions the conversion of South Third Street into Tennessee's component of a Memphis-to-Mississippi thoroughfare connecting downtown with the casino complexes of Tunica.

"My administration will propose to enhance an economic alliance agreement to benefit both areas," Ford's position paper says.

Another paper addresses the subject of the Shelby County Election Commission, toward whose conduct of the forthcoming elections Ford expresses a suspicion that "the fix is already in." Among other things, he maintains: "Reliable sources have alerted me" to the commission's potential for "foul play with early voting results, and election day results, also tampering with voter registration forms, and utilizing resources to encourage voters in county districts two, and three not to vote." He proposes a federal "watchdog committee" to keep this from happening.

Along with his position papers, Ford included a release announcing a press conference "to define, and describe the infrastructure in candidate Ford's mayoral campaign." The time is specific enough, "12 noon," but the date and venue of the press conference are handled by the initials "T.B.A." -- to be announced.

* Another candidate who would prefer to have greater attention paid his efforts than he has so far received is Dr. George Flinn, who is vying with state Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown for the Republican nomination for county mayor.

Flinn held a reception at Owen Brennan's Restaurant on Poplar last week that attracted a larger-than-usual crowd at the facility, whose multiroom reception area tends to magnify even small groups into apparent throngs. Flinn's crowd needed no such magnification, though its numbers were provided mainly by faces unfamiliar in political rallies than by the usual rank and file who attend such events.

"That's good. That's what we're going to surprise people with on May 7th," said Flinn, who concedes that Scroggs seems to have a lock on most Republican Party regulars. The physician/businessman, who operates a number of radio stations, says he will kick off his media campaign with several radio and TV spots on the first of April.

Scroggs, meanwhile, kept up a round of appearances on time off from his legislative duties in Nashville, appearing at a forum on consolidation in Collierville last week to elucidate his views.

* It was a good show, hastily advertised, and lacking therefore in some of the audience that should have been its due. But the 2002 version of Memphis' Gridiron Show at the Al Chymia Shrine Temple on Shelby Oaks -- which began and ended with well-produced tributes to post-September 11th New York -- did what some of its more elongated and self-indulgent predecessors failed to do:

This year's version -- titled "Smokey and the Bandits" -- consistently entertained. Less was more, both gagwise and songwise. The same might be said for a list of celebrity attendees that was short here and there -- no Willie Herenton, no Jim Rout, few members of the state legislature or of the city council or of the county commission -- but rich in public figures who happen right now to be cynosures.

Notably, there were Democratic U.S. Senate nominee-designate Bob Clement, the congressman from Nashville; once and future Senate hopeful Harold Ford Jr., the congressman from Memphis; and soon-to-be-emeritus Governor Don Sundquist.

Sundquist, who was notably absent from this month's Lincoln Day Dinner of the Shelby County Republican Party (which he co-founded some decades back), opined that some sort of budget solution might be in the offing in the General Assembly "as soon as the filing deadline" (April 4th for legislative positions) is over with. He did not demur at someone's suggestion that, wherever Tennessee might stand among the states on the scales of income, health care, and education, it had earned the right to be considered Number 50 -- dead last -- where state legislatures are concerned.

The governor nodded. "And the good ones are leaving," he said, noting the continuing exodus of experienced and conscientious lawmakers -- most recently House Finance Committee chairman Matt Kisber of Jackson.

Also present at the Gridiron Show, the proceeds of which go to fund scholarships at area universities, were three candidates for Shelby County mayor -- Democrats Chumney and Wharton and Republican Flinn. ( There was much discussion in the Wharton camp -- both by the candidates and by an aide or two as to whether state Rep. Chumney might have got the better of him in some often sharp exchanges at Whitehaven High School Saturday, during the second of two forums (of a scheduled four) sponsored by the county Democratic Party this election year for its primary candidates.

"One person said I won ... and another said she did," Wharton said. He inclined to the former view himself, but it was apparent that he was reflecting both on the strategy of returning the often aggressive Chumney's fire during debates and on the wisdom of participating in such forums with her at all. (He would likely continue doing both, he acknowledged.)

* Chumney's campaign got some attention recently that she would just as soon have not received. It came in the form of an e-mail sent to members of her personal network by Paula F. Casey, current president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and a longtime activist for women's issues.

In part, the e-mail reads, "As a cofounder of the Women's Political Caucus in 1983, I want to see a woman in an executive position in this county someday. However, Carol Chumney is NOT the woman," and goes on to argue, among other things, that Chumney adopted opportunistic positions in the legislature and, as one example, had "aligned herself with the right-wing fundamentalists" to oppose right-to-know legislation on behalf of adopted persons seeking information about their parents. (Chumney favored certain restrictions on the discharge of such information.)

Once close friends and allies, Chumney and Casey have been distant since their highly public disagreement in 1994 over the form and function of the state Women's Suffragist Commission, which Casey had initially proposed but which, Casey believed, Chumney attempted to gain control of during legislative establishment of the commission's machinery.

Ultimately, the commission was jointly headed by Casey and state Sen. Thelma Harper of Nashville but not before Casey felt her reputation had been unfairly maligned.

* The campaign manager for lawyer Guthrie Castle, a Democratic primary candidate for the District 5 County Commission seat, charged the Shelby County Election Commission Tuesday with abdication of its legal and moral responsibility in declining to rule on the validity of Castle's complaints regarding opponent Joe Cooper's financial disclosures.

"It's sad that fear of not being elected or appointed comes before the moral authority of this commission," Jeff Sullivan told members moments after his effort to invalidate Cooper's candidacy was ruled beyond the purview of the commission.

Castle's complaint, formally presented by Sullivan, charged that Cooper's most recent financial disclosures evidenced illegally large contributions from individuals and other entities, defiance of disclosure obligations in the case of outstanding debts, inaccurate information, and a variety of other "illegal contributions and illegal loans."

Under advice from its attorney, Philip Kaminsky, the commission ruled that it was now empowered to act on the complaint, which should, Kaminsky said, be taken directly either to the office of the state Election Registry in Nashville, to the office of the district attorney general, or to that of the state attorney general..

A little strong," was Styles' reaction to Sullivan's criticism. Whether directly prompted by the incident or not, Kaminsky entertained a small group after the meeting with a story that went this way: One man brought another into a Texas courtroom and demanded that the accused be punished for stealing two chickens. "Hang him!" said the judge, who was told by a shocked bailiff, "Your honor! You can't do that." Kaminsky hastened to the punch line: "I can't?" said the judge. "Well, I'll let him go then. I can do that."

Friday, March 22, 2002

After the Earthquake

An open Senate seat presents a new landscape for this year's Tennessee elections.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2002 at 4:00 AM

The turmoil unloosed by U.S. Senator Fred Thompson's surprise withdrawal from his reelection race two weeks ago created expectations within Democratic ranks that have since subsided -- with both U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis and (wonder of weekend wonders!) Tipper Gore having ultimately deferred to Nashville congressman Bob Clement, who announced his Senate candidacy this week in Nashville in a ceremony of party unification.

The claiming of first dibs by Clement, who was most senior among available Democrats, was an ironic echo of the orderly way in which Republicans ordinarily arrange a political succession. The GOP, meanwhile, saw itself in the kind of predicament normally incurred by Democrats -- with a primary contest between former Governor Lamar Alexander and 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant threatening to involve state Republicans in an internecine struggle with moderate-vs.-conservative and insurgent-vs.-Establishment overtones.

At the Shelby County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Memphis last weekend, Bryant contended that Alexander's forces were trying to dry up his fund-raising ability but insisted that he and his conservative supporters would fight on and win against the former governor, who had on his side favorable polls and enough money to begin TV advertisements. "There's something happening in Tennessee," said Bryant, who evoked the image of grass-roots rebellions in East Tennessee and West Tennessee.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary, the 4th District congressman who is still favored over persistent primary challenger Jim Henry, confided his anxiety that the new attention given the Senate race might retard his own fund-raising vis-à-vis his ultimate potential opponent, Democrat Phil Bredesen.

Hilleary, who had not yet reciprocated an endorsement he had received several weeks ago from congressional colleague Bryant, did so in a de facto manner. After suggesting in an interview that Henry's financial support, such as it was, came from sources close to Alexander and Governor Don Sundquist, with whom he disagrees on most matters, Hilleary would introduce Bryant to the Republican throng as one who "will be a great U.S. senator."

Absent from the Shelby County banquet were both Sundquist, who had co-founded the local affair three decades back, and Alexander, who had visited Memphis earlier in the week, collecting endorsements from outgoing Shelby County mayor Jim Rout and others.

Correction and Clarification Ex Parte: State Senator Steve Cohen insists he never "draped his arm" around mayoral dropout Harold Byrd during a multistage encounter between the two that took place at the annual awards banquet of the University of Memphis Alumni Association. The actual chronology of the matter, which was reported here last week as a composite of others' tellings, is as follows, reports the senator (who had earlier declined extended comment):

1) Cohen -- an outspoken supporter of another Democratic candidate, Shelby County public defender A C Wharton -- approaches Byrd and tells him he has done "the right thing" by withdrawing from an unwinnable county mayor's race, which at some point the senator compares to his own 1996 experience in a 9th District congressional race against ultimate winner Harold Ford Jr.;

2) Byrd responds by not turning around to greet Cohen, saying tersely, "You better leave."

3) Cohen withdraws but either seeks out or encounters Jo Tucker, Byrd's sister, whom the senator advises that Byrd has been "rude" to him, and, after declaring that the Bartlett banker isn't handling his disappointment well, suggests he'd be better off avoiding public functions and taking some time off;

4) Shortly thereafter Byrd approaches Cohen, grasps his arm, advises him not to talk to members of his (Byrd's) family, and threatens to "whip [Cohen's] ass." The senator's response, as he recalls it: "If you don't get your hands off me, I'll punch you in the nose."

Clearly, neither threat was realized, so things blew over.

· Byrd's point of view, it should be said, remains unspoken to. The erstwhile candidate remains involved in civic and business matters but is otherwise keeping a low profile and has not been available for comment.

He impressed members of the Phoenix Club, however, when, instead of canceling, he showed up for a prescheduled luncheon talk last week and, members say, discussed the circumstances of the Shelby County mayor's race with candor, precision, and good cheer.

The bottom line: He withdrew because his head told him he couldn't win, and his heart, reluctantly but ultimately, followed.

· Some other antagonists of Sen. Cohen, ideological ones, were in town last week: members of the Gambling Free Tennessee Alliance, a lobby formed to fight the upcoming Cohen-sponsored lottery referendum.

The two principal speakers at a press conference at the airport were former ambassador to France Joe Rodgers, who raises significant amounts of money for Republican causes, and former legislator Tommy Burnette, who was described by Alliance spokesperson Michael Gilstrap as being "a liberal by any definition."

In addition to moral arguments, Rodgers and Burnette attacked the assumptions of the lottery from their presumed ideological positions. Among other criticisms, Rodgers said the scholarships promised under Cohen's lottery proposal would require more matching funds from state coffers than could reasonably be afforded under the present difficult fiscal conditions.

Both men conceded that current polls show statewide sentiment to be overwhelmingly in favor of a lottery but -- citing the case of a recently defeated referendum in Albama, where early polls had predicted a win for lottery proponents -- predicted that would change.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

CASTLE REP HURLS CHARGE AT ELECTION COMMISSION

CASTLE REP HURLS CHARGE AT ELECTION COMMISSION

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2002 at 4:00 AM

The campaign manager for lawyer Guthrie Castle, a Democratic primary candidate for the District 5 County Commission seat, charged the Shelby County Election Commission Tuesday with abdication of its legal and moral responsibility in declining to rule on the validity of Castle’s complaints regarding opponent Joe Cooper‘s financial disclosures. “It’s sad that fear of not being elected or appointed comes before the moral authority of this commission,” Jeff Sullivan told members moments after his effort to invalidate Cooper’s candidacy was ruled beyond the purview of the commission. At the time the vote was taken at the heel of the meeting, only three members were sill present, but one of those who left early, Republican member Rich Holden, had said that the Commission members were in agreement on all the matters then still pending -- presumably including the Castle complaint, which had been belatedly added to the agenda by Chairman O.C. Pleasant. Castle’s complaint, formally presented by Sullivan, charged that Cooper’s most recent financial disclosures evidenced illegally large contributions from individuals and other entities, defiance of disclosure obligations in the case of outstanding debts, inaccurate information, and a variety of other “illegal contributions and illegal loans.” Therefore, said the complaint, Cooper should be declared ineligible to run, and “the illegalities and improprieties reflected in Mr. Cooper’s Campaign Disclosure Statements should be referred by this Commission to the District Attorney and the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance for investigation and appropriate action.” Also presented by Sullivan was a statement from Tony Dailey, general manager of Clear Channel Outdoor, alleging that an unpaid debt from one of frequent candidate Cooper’s prior campaigns in the amount of $23,700 constituted “an involuntary, but illegal, contribution.” Philip Kaminsky. the Commission’s attorney, advised members that Tennessee election law did not permit the county Election Commission, whose function was primarily "ministerial," to act as requested in the case of the "Class 2" violations cited by the Castle complaint. He said the commission was empowered only to assess fines and other minor penalties for such "Class 1" violations as late filings of disclosures. He suggested that complaints like Castle’s should be taken directly either to the office of the state Election Registry in Nashville, to the office of the District Attorney General, or to that of the state Attorney General.. The three Commission members still on hand -- Democrats Pleasant and Myra Styles and Republican Nancye Hines - then voted unanimously to support Kaminsky’s recommendation that no action be taken on the complaint. (Like Holden, Democratic member Greg Duckett had previously left -- in his case to catch a flight at the airport.) Whereupon Sullivan made his statement strongly implying the commission’s abdication of legal and moral responsibility -- a charge he made explicit when asked about it in a separate later interview. “A little strong,” was Styles’ reaction to the accusation. Whether directly prompted by the incident or not, Kaminsky entertained a small group after the meeting with a story that went this way: One man brought another into a Texas courtroom and demanded that the accused be punished for stealing two chickens. “’Hang him!’” said the judge, who was told by a shocked bailiff, “’Your honor! You can’t do that!’” Kaminsky hastened to the punchline: “’I can’t?’ said the judge. ‘Well, I’ll let him go then. I can do that!’” A disappointed Sullivan indicated afterward the complaint would probably not be pressed through court channels.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

BRYANT, HILLEARY FOCUS ON MONEY CRUNCH

BRYANT, HILLEARY FOCUS ON MONEY CRUNCH

Posted By on Sun, Mar 17, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Whatever else money is the root of, it served as root of all rhetoric Saturday night as Shelby County Republicans gathered for their annual Lincoln Day Dinner at Adam’s Mark Hotel, scarcely more than a week after U.S. Senator Fred Thompson‘s sudden withdrawal from a reelection campaign put their party, and the opposition Democrats’, into a turmoil of of opportunity and confusion.

  • 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, who was the penultimate speaker of a lengthy evening (introducing U.S. Senat. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas), named money as a chief concern., accusing “a handful of people” in the Nashville area of trying to handpick a successor to Thompson (read: former Governor Lamar Alexander) and shut off the money supply for other Senate candidates (read: himself).

    Asking for money, volunteers, and “prayer,” in that order, Bryant said a contested primary was what American politics was meant to be about, and a race between Republicans would be “good for the party, good for the system, good for Tennessee, and good for America”

  • Earlier, 4th District U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary -- who would address the gathering along with his own GOP primary opponent, former State Rep. Jim Henry of Kingston -- had expressed concern that the new attention focused on the Senatorial race in Tennessee, which had galvanized media interest in the nation as well as statewide, might dry up his money supply. “Not in relation to Henry,” said Hilleary, making an effort to dismiss his Republican opponent, “but in relation to Bredesen.” Former Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen is the likely Democratic nominee to oppose Hilleary in the fall if he should prevail, as expected, over Henry.

    (Although it was widely noticed last week that Hilleary, who was endorsed by Bryant several weeks ago, had not deigned to return the favor, the Middle Tennessee congressman may have indirectly remedied that Saturday night, presenting Bryant on the dais with an introduction that concluded, “who will make a great U.S. Senator.”)

  • Money -- or the lack of it for state government -- also figured as one of the reasons for the absence from the event -- perhaps his first ever -- of Governor Don Sundquist, one of the founders of Shelby County’s Lincoln Day event several decades ago. The governor, whose name was not mentioned by anyone from the dais, has seen his support among fellow Republicans eroded significantly by his continued advocacy of “tax reform” -- and of a state income tax, which figures as the primary element in Sundquist’s proposals.

    The governor has continually noted that without a major restructuring of the state’s finances, state government will be faced with drastic reduction of basic services.

    “He doesn’t need the abuse,” realtor Betty Smith, who helped Sundquist and others develop the modern Republican Party in Shelby County, said of his absence Saturday night. “He’ll be recognized eventually as a great statesman,” she said.

    Friday, March 15, 2002

    TIPPER FOR SENATE?!

    TIPPER FOR SENATE?!

    Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    p>The AP (3/15, Zuckerbrod) reports, “Tipper Gore is weighing an overture from Democrats to run for her husband's old Senate seat from Tennessee, sources close to her said Thursday. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Democrats urged Mrs. Gore to run after Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., announced last Friday that he would not seek re-election.” One of the sources “said Mrs. Gore was committed to public service and believed she owed it to herself to give some thought to a run.”

    Her husband, Al Gore, “held the Senate seat from 1985 to 1993, before becoming vice president. Gore said he would not run for his old seat immediately after Thompson made his announcement.”

    One Democratic operative “close to the Gores, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Gore had received a handful of overtures from Democrats urging her to consider running for the Senate and Mrs. Gore was weighing them.” However, the official “said there was some doubt Mrs. Gore would run, given her tendency to shrink from the limelight during the presidential campaign and her general unease about the national political process.” Still, the official, “said it was telling that Mrs. Gore did not reject the overtures out of hand.”

    The New York Post’s (3/15) ‘Page Six’ column reports, “While Al Gore says he's not interested in running for the Tennessee Senate seat being vacated this year by the GOP's Fred Thompson, Democratic bigwigs are hoping Al's wife, Tipper, will allow herself to be drafted.” Tipper “has never had much love for politics, but the chance to follow the wife of her husband's former running mate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, into the Senate might prove irresistible.”

    Until Thompson “formally announced 12 days ago that he was quitting, the Dems hadn't bothered to put up a serious candidate. But now the seat (vital to the balance of power in the Senate) is considered very winnable, and Tipper would have a great shot at doing just that.”

    She's “popular in the family's home state and the Gore name is legend there -- even if Al couldn't carry Tennessee in the squeaker presidential election of 2000.” Some in the party are “hoping Hillary can persuade Tipper it's a good move. The two women actually get on pretty well together, despite the tensions that arose between their husbands, and Hillary can honestly say she's enjoying her new role as a lawmaker in her own right.”

    Saying "Uncle"

    As Junior and Bryant saddle up for a Senate race, John Ford eyes the 9th District.

    Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    According to sources, state Senator John Ford is the Ford family pick to succeed U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., now on the verge of a run for the U.S. Senate.

    In one of those surprise developments which appear sensible and inevitable once they are thought about, Memphis' Sen. Ford, who confirms his interest, has become the Ford political clan's congressional candidate-designate in the increasingly likely event that Rep. Ford actively seeks the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Republican Fred Thompson.

    Thompson, who had been reticent about a reelection bid until the tragic events of September 11th, made a surprise exit from the race last Friday, saying that after the recent death of his 38-year-old daughter, he "didn't have the heart" to continue. That aroused in a number of political figures long-dormant ambitions that were already close to the surface.

    Sources close to key members of the Ford family and aware of their recent deliberations say that Rep. Ford has cast the die and will make the Senate race, although much preliminary work -- polls, organizational efforts, establishment of fund-raising machinery, etc. -- remains to be done.

    Rep. Ford and the Ford clan in general ultimately concluded that he would never face a better opportunity for seeking higher office than now, when the full bloom of his national media celebrity is upon him and an open seat is available; nor would as formidable a candidate in family ranks as Uncle John Ford necessarily be available several years down the line.

    For all his eccentricities and numerous brushes with notoriety (including frequent paternity suits, public marital disputes, and brushes with the law on weapons charges, and other matters), the senator is a respected player in Nashville, where he chairs the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee and is a key member of the Finance and State and Local Government committees as well.

    Rep. Ford, just back from a fact-finding tour of Afghanistan, spent the weekend calling influential Democrats and sounding them out about his making a race for the Senate this year. One of those called was Mayor Willie Herenton, who reportedly said he would be willing to support the most celebrated current member of a political family, the Fords of Memphis, with whom he has had a running feud.

    Speculation on other possible Democratic candidates to succeed Republican senator Thompson continued at a lively pace, with most of it centering on other members of the state's Democratic congressional delegation.

    Of these, the notoriously cautious John Tanner of the 8th District was considered a viable candidate but unlikely to take the gamble of a Senate race. Bart Gordon of the 6th District had not committed himself, while the 5th District's Bob Clement, who represents Nashville, is in the position of having possibly cried wolf too many times on statewide races, so far exclusively in aborted gubernatorial runs. The Clement camp, however, was putting out firm and decisive-sounding signals about a race.

    The names of Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who recently withdrew from the Shelby County mayor's race, and state Senator Steve Cohen have received some play, but Cohen indicated it was unlikely he would attempt another statewide race. (He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994.)

    For his part, Byrd has renounced any interest in the 7th District race. He has been more or less incommunicado following the previous week's emotionally draining decision to terminate his mayoral efforts.

    A footnote: One of Byrd's few appearances since ending his campaign was at the annual awards banquet of the University of Memphis Alumni Association. Cohen was there, too, and attempted, as he later explained, to commiserate with the Bartlett banker. Like Byrd, Cohen has also had an experience or two with what sports broadcaster Jim McKay memorialized as "the agony of defeat."

    Byrd was not having any, however -- either because he took Cohen's manner to be patronizing or because he resented Cohen's highly public use of his influence on candidate A C Wharton's behalf or perhaps for both reasons.

    In any case, the Bartlett banker told the state senator, in no uncertain terms, to remove the arm he had draped around Byrd's shoulder. He further directed Cohen, who had also attempted to address Byrd's sister Jo Tucker, to "stay away" from members of the Byrd family.

    Accounts of the incident varied -- some including reports of shoving -- but friends of both men suggested that at least superficially cordial relations between the two would resume at some point.

    Meanwhile, other Democrats looking at the Senate picture included Memphis entrepreneur John Lowery, an admitted dark horse who is hoping to put his business (Revelation Corporation) on a sound-enough self-sustaining basis in the next month so that he might consider running.

    "If none of the congressmen end up doing it, I'm in," Lowery said over the weekend.

    Events since then have probably made that formulation moot. As it happens, an ex-congressman has expressed some interest as well -- former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, now a consultant living in Nashville, who lost the 1994 special election that saw Thompson first elected to the Senate.

    And there was Jim Hall, the Chattanoogan who was a key aide to former Governor Ned McWherter and headed the National Transportation Safety Board under former President Clinton.

    • The Republican part of the senatorial picture was somewhat clearer. Seventh District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant eschewed any soul-searching and declared his candidacy on Saturday, thereby beating to the punch by two days former Governor Lamar Alexander, who floated a senatorial trial balloon last year when Thompson first seemed hesitant about running again.

    Bryant, whose interest in the position had long been evident, was not exactly enamored of that. The Alexander boom may, in fact, have stemmed from a 2001 poll showing that the former governor and erstwhile presidential candidate would run better against potential Democratic opponents than would Bryant.

    U.S. Senator Bill Frist, current head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, would later acknowledge having given Alexander some encouragement but has, Bryant says, declared a hands-off attitude toward a pending Bryant-Alexander primary, which might be fought out along conservative-vs.-moderate lines (with Bryant the conservative and Alexander the moderate).

    Bryant's chief concern now is the White House, which some observers believe is pressuring him to withdraw from a confrontation with Alexander.

    • At least four local congressional hopefuls are all for Bryant's staying the course of a senatorial campaign.

    The latest to put his hat in the ring as a potential successor to Bryant in the 7th District is state Senator Mark Norris of Collierville. And right behind him could be former Shelby County Republican chairman Phillip Langsdon, who of late has been directing the Republican primary efforts of fellow physician George Flinn, a candidate for Shelby County mayor.

    Norris, who introduced Bryant to Republican members of the Senate in Nashville on Monday, advised other Shelby Countians interested in running for Bryant's seat to "keep their powder dry" so as not to split the county's vote in the newly reapportioned 7th.

    Dr. Langsdon, meanwhile, a facial plastic surgeon who served two terms as county GOP chairman during the '90s, when partisan primaries for countywide offices were introduced and the local Republican Party was in the ascendant, said in a press release that he would be making a decision on running "in the next few days."

    Two other Shelby Countians have designs on the seat -- Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor, who has already announced as a G.O.P. candidate, and Memphis lawyer David Kustoff, who has said he plans to once Bryant's commitment to the Senate race becomes definite.

    At least two potential Republican candidates for the seat hail from the Nashville area. They are state Senator Marsha Blackburn and radio talk-show host Steve Gill, both of Williamson County -- an archcon-servative suburb of Nashville which was added to the 7th during the most recent congressional reapportionment.

    Thursday, March 14, 2002

    HAROLD JR. SAYS HE'D HAND OFF TO CLEMENT

    HAROLD JR. SAYS HE'D HAND OFF TO CLEMENT

    Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    It gets curiouser and curiouser. A day after dissociating himself from any plan to pass off his congressional seat to a covetous Uncle John, and a day before setting off on a Listening Tour of East Tennessee, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford of Memphis says he'd surrender first dibs on a Senate race to his Nashville colleague Bob Clement. Quote: "If he runs, I will support him."

    --J.B.

    The following is the press release Wednesday from the Washington officer of Rep. Ford:

    FORD STATEMENT

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN) today released the following statement:

    "As Tennessee Democrats search for the best candidate for the U.S. Senate, many believe -- including me -- that Bob Clement would make a terrific candidate and Senator. His commitment to service and name recognition, combined with his record in office, would make him a great candidate. If he runs, he will enjoy my support.

    "Although any Democratic candidate would start as an underdog, I firmly believe the election will be decided on the issues that are important to Tennesseans and their families. On Friday, I will visit East Tennessee to meet with parents, nurses, truckers, small business people, gun-owners and farmers to see if there is ground swell for something different in politics.

    "The feedback I'm getting is that voters resent having politicians imposed on them. Tennesseans want to choose, and deserve to choose, their candidates for public office. This trip across East Tennessee presents another opportunity to hear from the people and talk with them about the challenges we face in Tennessee and Washington. I can't wait to get there."

    Wednesday, March 13, 2002

    A STATEMENT BY REP. FORD -- AND A RESPONSE

    A STATEMENT BY REP. FORD -- AND A RESPONSE

    Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Though still not formally a candidate for the U.S. Senate , U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. continued Tuesday to look into preparations for such a race but issued a statement late in the day drawing clear distinctions between his own electoral intentions and those of his uncle, State Senator John Ford, who has indicated he will seek the 9th District congressional seat when and if his nephew chooses to vacate it.

    Rep. Ford’s statement reads as follows: "I have no intention of designating or supporting any member of my family, especially Senator John Ford, for the 9th Congressional seat should I decide to run for the U.S. Senate. I was brought up to know that Congressional and, for that matter, all political seats belong to the people, not a family. The people of the 9th Congressional district have blessed me -- and my father before -- to represent the district for three terms. And if I decide to run for the U.S. Senate, I hope that I am judged by my record and words, and no one else's. "

    The Flyer --or, to assume the right degree of responsibility under the circumstances, I -- reported on State Senator Ford’s intentions of running for the congressional seat this week in the context of its reflecting a consensus within the Ford family, and, while the basic information in our report came from a source who has proved unusually reliable in the past, we have no desire to take issue with the congressman or to dispute his statement. We will take him at his word. It is certainly possible that in this case we have been misled.

    Certainly Rep. Ford will be running his own race, independently of any other, and we would absolutely agree that not only should he be judged by his own “record and words, and no one else’s,” his career has made it clear that he always has been so judged, both by the general public and the media reporting on him.

    Moreover, unlike his father, former Rep. Harold Ford Sr., the current congressman has not made a habit during election seasons of publishing and distributing sample paper ballots recommending to voters his own slate of choices.

    We would go further and acknowledge instances of intra-family diversity like the current Shelby County Commission race featuring two Ford siblings -- Joe Ford and Ophelia Ford -- vying for the same position, or the several cases in the past, notably the 1994 Shelby County mayor’s race, in which the positions of members of the family -- in that case, John Ford and brother Harold Ford Sr. -- conspicuously and widely differed.

    Even so, the Ford political clan would not have held the offices it has over a quarter-century nor continued to enjoy the influence which it does without a striking degree of solidarity, and that fact is the rule rather than the exception.

    It is well known, for example, that former city councilman Joe Ford, now an interim county commissioner , was formerly regarded as the family’s preferred candidate to seek the 9th District seat in the event of the sort of senatorial vacancy which has now taken place.

    The former congressman and clan patriarch, Harold Ford Sr., openly acknowledged as much to friends and intimates.

    Indeed, there is much speculation at the moment, particularly in light of Rep. Ford’s most recent statement, that Joe Ford will in effect switch races and himself become a candidate for Congress in the event of the current’s congressman’s making a senatorial race.

    There are some who have interpreted Rep. Ford’s statement as not only a denial of an understanding with his uncle but as an explicit repudiation of State Senator Ford. Perhaps they are right.

    Perhaps Rep. Ford, who has spoken with his family’s erstwhile political nemesis, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, and asked for the mayor’s support of his senatorial bid, is especially intent on assuring the mayor of his neutrality concerning a prospective 9th District race.

    Perhaps, as Rep. Ford's statement suggests, he has renounced as undemocratic any idea that the family's nearly 30-year presence in the 9th District congressional seat is the basis for any kind of claim.

    Perhaps State Sen. Ford, who has made no secret in the last couple of days -- both in Memphis and in Nashville -- of his desire to run for Congress, has floated a trial balloon of his own that was wafted in our direction under false colors. Perhaps he or our principal source, or both, were themselves the victims of a misunderstanding. Or perhaps there is still more to all this than has so far met the eye -- or been contained within the terse formulations of a press release.

    Whatever the case, Rep. Ford should know that, in our experience, he has never been affected one way or another, for better or for worse, by the perceived public reputations of any of his near relations.

    This fact attests to a unique quality, persistently noted (if not totally accounted for) by the national media, and to a special momentum that together have brought him to the current pass, to the brink of a Senate race whose outcome no poll or demographic fact could possibly predict and no fact of blood relationship could conceivably inflect.

    If he flies, it will be because he, like the bumblebee, is meant to fly , not because of any of the usual standard measures of such things.

    (See also 'Going For It,' a companion article.)

    Tuesday, March 12, 2002

    JOHN FORD EYES 9TH AS JR. PREPARES SENATE RUN

    JOHN FORD EYES 9TH AS JR. PREPARES SENATE RUN

    Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    According to sources, State Senator John Ford, who confirms his interest, is the Ford family pick to succeed U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., now on the verge of a run for the U.S. Senate.

    In one of those surprise developments which appear sensible and inevitable once they are thought about, Memphis State Sen. Ford has become the Ford political clan's congressional candidate-designate in the increasingly likely event that Rep. Ford actively seeks the Democratic nominate for the Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Republican Fred Thompson.

    Sources close to key members of the Ford family and aware of their recent deliberations say that Rep. Ford has cast the die and will make the Senate race, although much preliminary work -- polls, organizational efforts, establishment of fundraising machinery, etc. -- remains to be done.

    Rep. Ford and the Ford clan in general ultimately concluded that he would never face a better opportunity for seeking higher office than now, when the full bloom of his national media celebrity is upon him and an open seat is available; nor would as formidable a candidate in family ranks as Uncle John Ford necessarily be available several years down the line.

    For all his eccentricies and frequent brushes with notoriety (ncluding frequent paternity suits, public marital disputes, and brushes with the law on weapons charges and other matters), the senator is a respected player in Nashville, where he chairs the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee and is a key member of the Finance and State and Local Government committees as well.

    Rep. Ford, just back from a fact-finder in Afghanistan, spent Friday and Saturday calling influential Democrats and sounding them out about his making a race for the Senate this year. One of those called was Mayor Willie Herenton, who reportedly said he would be willing to support the most celebrated current member of a political family, the Fords of Memphis, with whom he has had a running feud.

    Speculation on other possible Democratic candidates to succeed Republican Senator Fred Thompson continued at a lively pace, with most of it centering on other members of the state's Democratic congressional delegation.

    Of these, the notoriously cautious John Tanner of the 8th District was considered a viable candidate but unlikely to take the gamble of a Senate race. Bart Gordon of the 6th District had not committed himself, while the 5th District's Bob Clement, who represents Nashville, is in the position of having possibbly cried wolf too many times on statewide races, so far exclusively in aborted gubernatorial runs. The Clement camp, however, was putting out firm and decisive-sounding signals about a race.

    The names of Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who recently withdrew from the Shelby County Mayor's race, and State Senator Steve Cohen have received some play, but Cohen indicated it was unlikely he would attempt another statewide race (he run unsuccessfully for governor in 1994).

    A dark horse candidate is Memphis entrepreneur John Lowery, who is hoping to put his business (Revelation Corporation) on a sound enough, self-sustaining basis in the next month so that he could consider running.

    "If none of the congressmen end up doing it, I'm in," Lowery said on Friday.

    As it happens, an ex-congressman has expressed some interest as well -- former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, now a consultant living in Nashville, who lost the 1994 special election that saw Thompson first elected to the Senate.

    Another potential candidate mulling over a race is Jim Hall, the Chattanogan who was a key aide to former Governor Ned McWherter and headed the National Transportation Safety Board under former President Clinton.

    FOUR FROM SHELBY WANT ED BRYANT'S SEAT

    FOUR FROM SHELBY WANT ED BRYANT'S SEAT

    Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    L to R: Norris, Langsdon, Taylor, Kustoff

    State Senator Mark Norris of Collierville has become the latest entry (though as yet an unofficial one) in the race to succeed 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, who has announced for the now open U.S. Senate seat of Fred Thompson.

    And former Shelby County Republican chairman Phillip Langsdon may be right behind him.

    Norris, who planned to be introducing Bryant to Republican members of the Senate in Nashville on Monday, advised other Shelby Countians interested in running for Bryant's seat to "keep their powder dry" so as not to split the county's vote in the newly reapportioned 7th.

    Dr. Langson, meanwhile, a facial plastic surgeon who served two terms as county GOP chairman duroing the '90s, said in a press release that he would be making a decision on running "in the next few days."

    Two other Shelby Countians have designs on the seat -- Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor, who has already announced as a G.O.P. candidate, and Memphis lawyer David Kustoff, who has said he plans to.

    At least two potential Republican candidates for the seat hail from the Nashville area. They are State Senator Marsha Blackburn and radio talk show host Steve Gill, both of Williamson County.

    A STATEMENT BY REP. FORD -- AND A RESPONSE

    A STATEMENT BY REP. FORD -- AND A RESPONSE

    Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Though still not formally a candidate for the U.S. Senate , U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. continued Tuesday to look into preparations for such a race but issued a statement late in the day drawing clear distinctions between his own electoral intentions and those of his uncle, State Senator John Ford, who has indicated he will seek the 9th District congressional seat when and if his nephew chooses to vacate it.

    Rep. Ford’s statement reads as follows: "I have no intention of designating or supporting any member of my family, especially Senator John Ford, for the 9th Congressional seat should I decide to run for the U.S. Senate. I was brought up to know that Congressional and, for that matter, all political seats belong to the people, not a family. The people of the 9th Congressional district have blessed me -- and my father before -- to represent the district for three terms. And if I decide to run for the U.S. Senate, I hope that I am judged by my record and words, and no one else's. "

    The Flyer --or, to assume the right degree of responsibility under the circumstances, I -- reported on State Senator Ford’s intentions of running for the congressional seat this week in the context of its reflecting a consensus within the Ford family, and, while the basic information in our report came from a source who has proved unusually reliable in the past, we have no desire to take issue with the congressman or to dispute his statement. We will take him at his word. It is certainly possible that in this case we have been misled.

    Certainly Rep. Ford will be running his own race, independently of any other, and we would absolutely agree that not only should he be judged by his own “record and words, and no one else’s,” his career has made it clear that he always has been so judged, both by the general public and the media reporting on him.

    Moreover, unlike his father, former Rep. Harold Ford Sr., the current congressman has not made a habit during election seasons of publishing and distributing sample paper ballots recommending to voters his own slate of choices.

    We would go further and acknowledge instances of intra-family diversity like the current Shelby County Commission race featuring two Ford siblings -- Joe Ford and Ophelia Ford -- vying for the same position, or the several cases in the past, notably the 1994 Shelby County mayor’s race, in which the positions of members of the family -- in that case, John Ford and brother Harold Ford Sr. -- conspicuously and widely differed.

    Even so, the Ford political clan would not have held the offices it has over a quarter-century nor continued to enjoy the influence which it has without a striking degree of solidarity, and that fact is the rule rather than the exception.

    It is well known, for example, that former city councilman Joe Ford, now an interim county commissioner , was formerly regarded as the family’s preferred candidate to seek the 9th District seat in the event of the sort of senatorial vacancy which has now taken place.

    The former congressman and clan patriarch, Harold Ford Sr., openly acknowledged as much to friends and intimates.

    Indeed, there is much speculation at the moment, particularly in light of Rep. Ford’s most recent statement, that Joe Ford will in effect switch races and himself become a candidate for Congress in the event of the current’s congressman’s making a senatorial race.

    There are some who have interpreted Rep. Ford’s statement as not only a denial of an understanding with his uncle but as an explicit repudiation of State Senator Ford. Perhaps they are right.

    Perhaps Rep. Ford, who has spoken with his family’s erstwhile political nemesis, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, and asked for the mayor’s support of his senatorial bid, is especially intent on assuring the mayor of his neutrality concerning a prospective 9th District race.

    Perhaps State Sen. Ford, who has made no secret in the last couple of days Though still not formally a candidate for the U.S. Senate , U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. continued Tuesday to look into preparations for such a race but issued a statement late in the day drawing clear distinctions between his own electoral intentions and those of his uncle, State Senator John Ford, who has indicated he will seek the 9th District congressional seat when and if his nephew chooses to vacate it.

    Rep. Ford’s statement reads as follows: "I have no intention of designating or supporting any member of my family, especially Senator John Ford, for the 9th Congressional seat should I decide to run for the U.S. Senate. I was brought up to know that Congressional and, for that matter, all political seats belong to the people, not a family. The people of the 9th Congressional district have blessed me -- and my father before -- to represent the district for three terms. And if I decide to run for the U.S. Senate, I hope that I am judged by my record and words, and no one else's. "

    The Flyer --or, to assume the right degree of responsibility under the circumstances, I -- reported on State Senator Ford’s intentions of running for the congressional seat this week in the context of its reflecting a consensus within the Ford family, and, while the basic information in our report came from a source who has proved unusually reliable in the past, we have no desire to take issue with the congressman or to dispute his statement. We will take him at his word. It is certainly possible that in this case we have been misled.

    Certainly Rep. Ford will be running his own race, independently of any other, and we would absolutely agree that not only should he be judged by his own “record and words, and no one else’s,” his career has made it clear that he always has been so judged, both by the general public and the media reporting on him.

    Moreover, unlike his father, former Rep. Harold Ford Sr., the current congressman has not made a habit during election seasons of publishing and distributing sample paper ballots recommending to voters his own slate of choices.

    We would go further and acknowledge instances of intra-family diversity like the current Shelby County Commission race featuring two Ford siblings -- Joe Ford and Ophelia Ford -- vying for the same position, or the several cases in the past, notably the 1994 Shelby County mayor’s race, in which the positions of members of the family -- in that case, John Ford and brother Harold Ford Sr. -- conspicuously and widely differed.

    Even so, the Ford political clan would not have held the offices it has over a quarter-century nor continued to enjoy the influence which it has without a striking degree of solidarity, and that fact is the rule rather than the exception.

    It is well known, for example, that former city councilman Joe Ford, now an interim county commissioner , was formerly regarded as the family’s preferred candidate to seek the 9th District seat in the event of the sort of senatorial vacancy which has now taken place.

    The former congressman and clan patriarch, Harold Ford Sr., openly acknowledged as much to friends and intimates.

    Indeed, there is much speculation at the moment, particularly in light of Rep. Ford’s most recent statement, that Joe Ford will in effect switch races and himself become a candidate for Congress in the event of the current’s congressman’s making a senatorial race.

    There are some who have interpreted Rep. Ford’s statement as not only a denial of an understanding with his uncle but as an explicit repudiation of State Senator Ford. Perhaps they are right.

    Perhaps Rep. Ford, who has spoken with his family’s erstwhile political nemesis, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, and asked for the mayor’s support of his senatorial bid, is especially intent on assuring the mayor of his neutrality concerning a prospective 9th District race.

    Perhaps State Sen. Ford, who has made no secret in the last couple of days -- both in Memphis and in Nashville -- of his desire to run for Congress, has floated a trial balloon of his own that was wafted in our direction under false colors. Perhaps he or our principal source, or both, were themselves the victims of a misunderstanding. Or perhaps there is still more to all this than has so far met the eye -- or been contained within the terse formulations of a press release.

    Whatever the case, Rep. Ford should know that, in our experience, he has never been affected one way or another, for better or for worse, by the perceived public reputations of any of his near relations.

    This fact attests to a unique quality, persistently noted (if not totally accounted for) by the national media, and to a special momentum that together have brought him to the current pass, to the brink of a Senate race whose outcome no poll or demographic fact could possibly predict and no fact of blood relationship could conceivably inflect, one way or another.

    If he flies, it will be because he, like the bumblebee, is meant to fly , not because of any of the usual standard measures of such things.

    (See also 'Going For It,' a companion article.) both in Memphis and in Nashville -- of his desire to run for Congress, has floated a trial balloon of his own that was wafted in our direction under false colors. Perhaps he or our principal source, or both, were themselves the victims of a misunderstanding. Or perhaps there is still more to all this than has so far met the eye -- or been contained within the terse formulations of a press release.

    Whatever the case, Rep. Ford should know that, in our experience, he has never been affected one way or another, for better or for worse, by the perceived public reputations of any of his near relations.

    This fact attests to a unique quality, persistently noted (if not totally accounted for) by the national media, and to a special momentum that together have brought him to the current pass, to the brink of a Senate race whose outcome no poll or demographic fact could possibly predict and no fact of blood relationship could conceivably inflect, one way or another.

    If he flies, it will be because he, like the bumblebee, is meant to fly , not because of any of the usual standard measures of such things.

    (See also 'Going For It,' a companion article.)

    Monday, March 11, 2002

    BRYANT IN. WILL WHITE HOUSE BOOST ALEXANDER?

    BRYANT IN. WILL WHITE HOUSE BOOST ALEXANDER?

    Posted By on Mon, Mar 11, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Bryant
    • Bryant
    Lamar
    • Lamar
    A statement released by 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant Saturday apparently has committed him to a race for the U.S. Senate of incumbent Republican Fred Thompson, who on Friday announced his surprise decision to end his reelection effort.

    Bryant had said Friday night, on the occasion of his introducing Thompson at a Madison County Republican dinner, that nothing short of unmistakable White House pressure on former Governor Lamar Alexander's behalf could keep him from the race -- even if it meant tangling with Alexander.

    Since the former governor has also indicated a firm intention to run and will evidently announce as much at a press conference on Monday, a one-on-one seems ordained from this year's GOP primary. Inasmuch as U.S. Rep. Zach Warmp of Chattanooga is also considering the race, the Republican Senate primary could turn into a three-way affair.

    Bryant has long been a known aspirant for the seat, which he had eyed for years, long before Alexander's first expression of interest a year ago.

    The 7th District congressman had let it be known back then that if Thompson decided against a reelection bid, he would compete for the Senate seat -- even if Alexander also pursued it.

    That is still the case, as Bryant’s circle and the congressman made a point of indicating all day Friday and as Bryant made explicit in his Saturday statement.

    At the Madison County Republican party Lincoln Day dinner in Jackson, where Bryant introduced keynote speaker Thompson Friday night, Bryant said, ”I’m definitely running,” adding after a subtle pause, “if it’s an open race.” He defined that as being a contest in which “the White House” did not intervene on behalf of someone else -- namely, Alexander.

    Bryant said Tennessee’s other Senator, Bill Frist, had made it clear to him that, as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he would not attempt to single out for preference Alexander -- whom Frist acknowledged last year having cultivated as a possible Senate successor to Thompson.

    In the unlikely event that Alexander should change his mind and not run, Bryant would still have a rival on the primary trail: former state Republican chairman Chip Saltsman, who, before Thompson’s announcement of a year ago, had been prepared to compete for the nomination with Bryant.

    Saltsman, however, would not run against Alexander, whether or not the former governor had the imprimatur of George W. Bush's White House.

    Meanwhile, the likelihood of Bryant's being a Senate candidate freed up at least one potential candidate for his 7th District seat. Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor, one of several congressional wannabes whose bid for the Bryant seat had been holding fire until it became officially open, announced he would be a candidate.

    Another probable candidate is Memphis lawyer David Kustoff, the 2000 state campaign manager for President Bush and now campaign manager for Shelby County Sheriff's candidate Mark Luttrell.

    Reached Sunday upon his return from a weekend trip to Florida, Kustoff said he would declare for the 7th District seat as soon as he was convinced that Rep. Bryant intended to vacate it. In practical terms, Kustoff said, that might mean "when he files the papers."

    (Kustoff discounted absolutely an earlier report that he might be willing to consider a key role in an Alexander Senate campaign.)

    Another possible entry in the 7th District race is state Senator Marsha Blackburn, whose Williamson County bailiwick now belongs within the district via the most recent reapportionment.

    ###

    The text of Rep. Bryant's statement Saturday reads as follows:

    "Yesterday, I said I would give full consideration to running for the United States Senate to succeed Senator Fred Thompson, a man and public servant for whom I hold the highest respect. Since then, I have spoken with numerous Tennesseans across the state about what is best for Tennessee in light of Senator Thompson’s decision. I could not have asked for stronger encouragement and support.

    "I believe it is essential for Tennessee to continue having the same kind of effective leadership and representation that we have had from our Senators since 1995. It is also crucial for our Party to have a Senate that can work together with President George W. Bush instead of attacking and obstructing his positive, compassionate conservative agenda. It is for these reasons that I am committing myself to this race and becoming Tennessee’s next United States Senator."

    Sunday, March 10, 2002

    FORD EXPLORES HERENTON SUPPORT FOR SENATE RACE

    FORD EXPLORES HERENTON SUPPORT FOR SENATE RACE

    Posted By on Sun, Mar 10, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Even as firm battle lines were being drawn in Republican ranks on the matter of a successor to U.S. Senator Fred Thompson [see separate story], thing were somewhat fuzzier with Tennessee Democrats.

    Most speculation centered on the state's Democratic congressmen, however, and one of them -- 9th District Rep. Harold Ford Jr., just back from a fact-finder in Afghanistan, spent Friday and Saturday calling influential Democrats and sounding them out about his making a race for the Senate this year.

    One of those called was Mayor Willie Herenton, who reportedly said he would be willing to support the most celebrated current member of a political family, the Fords of Memphis, with whom he has had a running feud.

    Even if so, however, that did not resolve the question of what would happen to the 9th District congressional seat currently held by Ford. Would the Fords try to retain it with a family member -- say, Jake Ford, brother of the current congressman? Or would Herenton bend his efforts toward capturing the seat for one of his proteges, like lawyer Rickey Willkins?

    Would, for that matter, well regarded Democrats like Blue Cross/Blue Shield executive Calvin Anderson be tempted to run?

    How dependent are long-term family fortunes -- including those of former congressman Harold Ford Sr., now a highly paid consultant -- on possession of the 9th District seat as a secure power base?

    Of course, Ford may not run after all, but the number and intensity of his phone calls the last two days suggest that he is serious -- if for no other reason than that his political star, which burns bright indeed in national and statewide Democratic and media circles, might lose lustre if he passed up a chance to run in an open race of importance.

    Memories are still fresh of Ford's yearlong flirtation with a 2000 Senate race against Bill Frist,one that may have been aborted by the devastating loss suffered by the Ford clan in 1999 when then city councilman Joe Ford (now an appointed county commissioner seeking election in his own right)lost badly in an effort to unseat Mayor Herenton.

    In a sense, the sudden withdrawal of Fred Thompson from his reelection campaign and the consequent creation of an open seat has put Rep. Ford on the spot -- calling his bluff, as it were.

    Of the state's other Democratic congressmen, the notoriously cautious John Tanner of the 8th District was considered a viable candidate but unlikely to take the gamble of a Senate race. Bart Gordon of the 6th District had not committed himself, while the 5th District's Bob Clement, who represents Nashville, is in the position of having possibbly cried wolf too many times on statewide races, so far exclusively in aborted gubernatorial runs.

    The names of Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who recently withdrew from the Shelby County Mayor's race, and State Senator Steve Cohen have received some play, but Cohen indicated it was unlikely he would attempt another statewide race (he run unsuccessfully for governor in 1994).

    A dark horse candidate is Memphis entrepreneur John Lowery, who is hoping to put his business (Revelation Corporation) on a sound enough, self-sustaining basis in the next month so that he could consider running.

    "If none of the congressmen end up doing it, I'm in," Lowery said on Friday.

    As it happens, an ex-congressman has expressed some interest as well -- former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, now a consultant living in Nashville, who lost the 1994 special election that saw Thompson first elected to the Senate.

    BRYANT IN . WILL WHITE HOUSE BOOST ALEXANDER?

    BRYANT IN . WILL WHITE HOUSE BOOST ALEXANDER?

    Posted By on Sun, Mar 10, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Bryant
    • Bryant
    Lamar
    • Lamar
    A statement released by 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant Saturday apparently has committed him to a race for the U.S. Senate of incumbent Republican Fred Thompson, who on Friday announced his surprise decision to end his reelection effort.

    Bryant had said Friday night, on the occasion of his introducing Thompson at a Madison County Republican dinner, that nothing short of unmistakeable White House pressure on former Governor Lamar Alexander's behalf could keep him from the race -- even if it meant tangling with Alexander.

    Since the former governor has also indicated a firm intention to run and will evidently announce as much at a press conference on Monday, a one-on-one seems ordained from this year's GOP primary. Inasmuch as U.S. Rep. Zach Warmp of Chattanooga is also considering the race, the Republican Senate primary could turn into a three-way affair.

    >Bryant has long been a known aspirant for the seat. which he had eyed for years, long before Alexander's first expression of interest a year ago.

    The 7th District congressman had let it be known back then that if Thompson decided against a reelection bid, he would compete for the Senate seat -- even if Alexander also pursued it.

    That is still the case, as BryantÕs circle and the congressman made a point of indicating all day Friday and as Bryant made explicit in his Saturday statement.

    At the Madison County Republican party Lincoln Day dinner in Jackson, where Bryant introduced keynote speaker Thompson Friday night, Bryant said,ÓIÕm definitely running,Ó adding after a subtle pause, Òif itÕs an open race.Ó He defined that as being a contest in which Òthe White HouseÓ did not intervene on behalf of someone else -- namely, Alexander.

    Bryant said TennesseeÕs other Senator, Bill Frist, had made it clear to him that, as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he would not attempt to single out for preference Alexander -- whom Frist acknowledged last year having cultivated as a possible Senate successor to Thompson.

    In the unlikely event that Alexander should change his mind and not run, Bryant would still have a rival on the primary trail: former state Republican chairman Chip Saltsman, who, before ThompsonÕs announcement of a year ago, had been prepared to compete for the nomination with Bryant.

    Saltsman, however, would not run against Alexander, whether or not the former governor had the imprimatur of George W. Bush's White House.

    Meanwhile, the likelihood of Bryant's being a Senate candidate freed up at least one potential candidate for his 7th District seat. Memphis city councilman Brent Turner, one of several congressional wannabes whose bid for the Bryant seat had been holding fire until it became officially open, announced he would be a candidate.

    Another probable candidate is Memphis lawyer David Kustoff, the 2000 state camapign manager for President Bush and now campaign manager for Shelby County Sheriff's candidate Mark Luttrell.

    Reached Sunday upon his return from a weekend trip to Florida, Kustoff said he would declare for the 7th District seat as soon as he was convinced that Rep. Bryant intended to vacate it. In practical terms, Kustoff said, that might mean "when he files the papers."

    (Kustoff discounted absolutely an earlier report that he might be willing to consider a key role in an Alexander Senate campaign.)>

    ###

    The text of Rep. Bryant's statement Saturday reads as fllows:

    "Yesterday, I said I would give full consideration to running for the United States Senate to succeed Senator Fred Thompson, a man and public servant for whom I hold the highest respect. Since then, I have spoken with numerous Tennesseans across the state about what is best for Tennessee in light of Senator ThompsonÕs decision. I could not have asked for stronger encouragement and support.

    "I believe it is essential for Tennessee to continue having the same kind of effective leadership and representation that we have had from our Senators since 1995. It is also crucial for our Party to have a Senate that can work together with President George W. Bush instead of attacking and obstructing his positive, compassionate conservative agenda. It is for these reasons that I am committing myself to this race and becoming TennesseeÕs next United States Senator."

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