Friday, November 12, 2004

Hustle & Flow

Election winds change political horizons nationally and locally.<

Posted on Fri, Nov 12, 2004 at 4:00 AM

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 Los Angeles 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 versus Bill Frist scenario. It's surely no secret that Frist, the state's senior senator, intends to vacate his seat in 2006 to organize a 2008 presidential run unemcumbered by a legislative saddle.

n 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 in 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 representative 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."

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?"

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

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 ensure his reelection 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 backward on the track.

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