Thursday, November 11, 2004

POLITICS

Election winds change the political horizons.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 11, 2004 at 4:00 AM

HUSTLE & FLOW Now that Tennessee is increasingly tinted red on the political color map, what do Democrats in these parts do? Well, like they say, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody some good. But it’s still an ill wind. Which is to say, it creates opportunities for some, dilemmas for others.

Out of nowhere, Governor Phil Bredesen is on the short list of White House Democratic possibles for 2008. In the morrow of President Bush’s reelection victory -- predicated on his control of electoral votes in the American heartland -- Bredesen’s name has turned up in surveys of potential Democratic candidates prepared by the mainline national media.

Putting together a potential 2008 presidential-candidate list in Sunday’s LA Times, Peter Wallsten and Nick Anderson included Bredesen among a small group of governors “seen widely as effective communicators of a populist Democratic message in GOP-leaning states.” Adam Nagourney put Bredesen on his short list of Democratic prospects in the Sunday New York Times, and USA Today had the Tennessee governor on its list in a Friday story.

Which leads to a hypothetically possible (but unlikely) Bredesen-v.-Frist scenario. It’s surely no secret that Bill Frist, the state’s senior senator intends to vacate his seat in 2006 so as to organize a 2008 presidential run unemcumbered by a legislative saddle.

By the way, the name of Harold Ford Jr., the 9th District congressman who intends a run two years from now for Frist’s seat has itself turned up in a 2008 presidential preference survey of potential candidates by the national polling firm McLaughlin & Associates. Ford (who will be 38 in 2008) weighed in at 1 percent among respondents.

Republican candidates for the Senate seat are getting serious. Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker has started organizing a campaign, and former 7th District congressman and unsuccessful 2002 Senate candidate Ed Bryant sent out a letter last week notifying potential supporters that he would be running .

At a pre-election rally ion Memphis, Bryant had said this about Corker’s efforts: “He shouldn’t be starting his fund-raising now, when we have the Bush effort going and various other races important to the party. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about that.”

For State Rep. Beth Harwell, who has been doubling as state Republican chairman and who also is mulling over a Senate race, Bryant had this left-handed praise: “I think it’s great if Beth runs.” He said the possibility reminded him of the 1994 Republican primary for the 7th district congressional seat, which he eventually won. “You remember? It started out with me and [then Germantown mayor] Charles Salvaggio and [former local GOP chairman] Maida Pearson. If Maida hadn’t been in, there probably would have been a congressman Salvaggio, and I’d probably have been shoveling trash in Jackson for the next several years.”

Other than this intimation that a split in the 2006 congressional race would benefit him in the same way that the one in 1994 presumably had, Bryant did not elaborate.

Yet another attendee and possible Senate candidate at that Memphis rally was former 4th District congressman and ex-gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary. “I’m ahead right now,” said Hilleary, referencing a statewide poll showing him in the lead over other potential GOP contenders, “but I’ve got to worry about Corker.” Going on with tongue presumably in cheek concerning the wealthy Chattanoogan, he asked rhetorically, “How much money do you think he’ll raise before the end of the year? $18 million? Anyhow, I’ve got to worry about the money he’ll have.”

Urged by a GOP well-wisher to consider running in 2006 against Governor Bredesen, the Democrat who defeated him two years ago, Hilleary replied, “I don’t think he’ll be easy to beat.”

Also on hand at that pre-election rally was another potential Senate candidate, current 7th District Rep. Marsha Blackburn. “Wait and see” was her take on the Senate race.

The new one-vote Republican majority in the state Senate has created a lot of pre-session hustle and flow among members of that body.

First, Lt. Governor John Wilder of Somerville, a nominal Democrat who survived a Republican challenge from Ron Stallings of Bolivar, has acted swiftly to nail down the vote of GOP Senate colleague Curtis Person of Memphis, a Wilder loyalist, along with enough other GOP members to apparently insure his re-election as Senate speaker.

But the new lineup of committee chairs will surely number one less Democrat, leaving two Memphians, John Ford (chairman: General Welfare, Health & Human Resources) and Steve Cohen (chairman: State & Local Government) among the vulnerable.

Next, Democratic caucus chairman Joe Haynes of Nashville faces a challenge for his post from Dresden’s Roy Herron and Clarksville’s Rosalind Kurita. And Memphis Senator Jim Kyle, a Bredesen confidante, is reportedly interested in the job of Senate Democratic leader, a position now held by Ward Crutchfield of Chattanooga.

Former city attorney Robert Spence’s school board race for Position 1, At Large, was widely regarded as a trial run for a 2007 mayoral bid. If so, his lackluster third-place finish behind incumbent Wanda Halbert and second-place finisher Kenneth Whalum Jr. may have set him backwards on the track.

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