Saturday, April 13, 2002

HENRY: WILL CATCH HILLEARY 'IN 6 WEEKS'

HENRY: WILL CATCH HILLEARY 'IN 6 WEEKS'

Posted By on Sat, Apr 13, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Did Hilleary really beseech the Gov to endorse him? Jim Henry says so.

Jim Henry admits he’s playing catch-up in his race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination versus Van Hilleary, but he says, “If we do in the next six weeks what we’ve done n the last six weeks, this race will be even.”

What he’s done is raised a little money here and there Ð an estimated $75,000 from a visit to Memphis on Thursday, and similar amounts maybe in Nashville and Chattanooga Ð but he still won’t say what he’s raised overall and won’t until he’s required to. About Hilleary, who had to disclose year-end receipts at the end of January and did so, to the tune of some $2 million, Henry says, “You know how he was doing voluntary disclosures all the way through the end of last year? Well, he hasn’t done any since then.” Ð the clear implication being that he (Henry) is moving and Hilleary isn’t.

The former House Republican leader and state GOP chairman from Kingston had the first billboards up in the middle of last year, and now, says Henry, he’s “first out of the box” with TV and radio media, too.

Before a group of contributors in Memphis Henry unveiled his new ads, which will run statewide starting on Monday and, in an echo of his earlier slogan ‘Smart,Qualified, Electable,’ stress the themes of conciliation , know-how, and of being “ready from Day one” -- clear shots at Hilleary, the five-term 4th district congressman who in recent weeks has twisted his tongue and gotten frustrated a time or two, most recently in Blountville over the issue of whether he owed the public or the media an explanation of how he’d handle the continuing state revenue crisis.

Henry makes a pass at sounding gracious about Hilleary’s discomfiture, saying, “Well, I’m sure he didn’t meant that. He was tired, or maybe he was reacting to the tone of the media person questioning him.”

The erstwhile Lamar Alexander protégé concedes privately that there’s a little bit of dovetailing between his support and that of Senate candidate Alexander, though he claims to have the backing of some of 7th District congressman Ed Bryant‘s people, too.

What he doesn’t claim is what many people -- specifically including Hilleary -- believe, that he has Governor Don Sundquist‘s de facto support. “We haven’t asked the governor for an endorsement,” Henry says, and then makes the startling declaration that Hilleary has. “He’s gone to see him three times in the last year asking for an endorsement,” Henry asserts confidently, not saying where he gets his information, though, from the sound of it, it would almost have to come from Sundquist himself.

The claim, which Henry had made a point of vending in a Thursday afternoon visit to Legislative Plaza, is almost certain to draw a rejoinder fromHilleary-- the same Hilleary who always spends much of his time on the stump dissing the governor with the Income tax albatross around his neck (though not by name).

What Henry clearly wants to avoid is being bracketed too publicly with Sundquist and Alexander, but he plainly wouldn’t mind reaping the benefits of the association. Henry expresses confidence that the extra turnout that will happen on August 1st because of the heated Senate race will benefit him and not Hilleary, but he has to be wondering, which way the Young Turk volatility of the Bryant rebellion will boil.

For better or for worse, there will be some kind of linkage between the recently dormant gubernatorial race and the newly explosive one for the Senate. He-- and we-- will likely find out what it is soon enough-- over the next six weeks, say..

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