Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Still Kicking

A combative Kurita shows the flag in Memphis, discounting reports of campaign problems.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Citing a months-old poll of her own that shows her 6 percentage points ahead of U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr., in the Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate, state senator Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville declined Saturday to "speak ill of my opponent." But she went on to take a subtle dig at Ford, telling a meeting of the Germantown Democrats, "I really can't look into his heart and say why he voted on things."

Kurita went on: "I do observe that there seems to be 'a little this and a little that.' With me you get this. I'm going to be there and show up for the important votes every time. Every time." With a few deft brush strokes, thus, she managed to remind her listeners of A) Ford's votes for recent energy and bankruptcy measures (both of which she stated her opposition to, referring to the latter bill as "a travesty"); B) what some Democrats consider the congressman's political ambivalence; and C) his widely noted absence from last spring's vote on President Bush's budget.

Of the bankruptcy bill, Kurita observed, "The credit card companies wrote that bill, just like the oil companies wrote the energy policy."

Ford was not the only target of Kurita's commentary. In defending her reluctance, some years back, to support a state income tax, Kurita also expressed criticism of its chief proponent, former Republican governor Don Sundquist, who "couldn't run anything" and whose administration was "incredibly incompetent."

And of Tennessee Justice Center head Gordon Bonnyman, whose litigation has been blamed by current Democratic governor Phil Bredesen for forcing cuts in state TennCare rolls, Kurita said, "God bless him. Gordon's going to heaven. But in the meantime, everybody's losing everything, and that's what's wrong."

Nor did President Bush escape the candidate's lash. Commenting on both failed relief efforts in New Orleans and the increasing demands of the Iraq war, Kurita said rhetorically, "Where was the National Guard? We know where the National Guard was." Military personnel are "going out every single day" from the Ft. Campbell Army base which adjoins her district, she said.

Kurita's appearance here was in the wake of recent reports that her campaign was suffering both financially and from the loss of support staff. In an interview afterward, she discounted both matters, noting that she had brought three staffers to the meeting with her and expressing optimism for a series of fund-raising Internet ads she has begun.

Even as local attention focused last week on Hurricane Katrina and the city's response to it, political gossip about prospective candidates for two seats -- one sure to be open next year and another likely to be -- simmered on the back burner.

District 97, State House of Representatives: Tre Hargett of Bartlett, the incumbent, who has been serving as House Republican leader, resigned last month to accept a job as chief legislative lobbyist for the Pfizer pharmaceutical chain. At least three Republicans are rumored to be interested in competing for the seat: Bartlett alderman Mike Morris; broadcaster Austin Farley; and teacher Jim Coley. Other names are expected to be tossed into the hat as well.

District 3, Shelby County Commission: In a development no less shocking for being widely rumored beforehand, incumbent Michael Hooks Sr., the current commission chairman, was indicted last week in connection with the Tennessee Waltz scandal. While there is no word as yet on whether Hooks intends to try to hold on to his seat, former interim state senator Sidney Chism is considered a likely replacement should the commission be called upon to designate an interim successor.

Last week's rejection by the state Democratic Party executive committee of state representative Henri Brooks' primary-election appeal means that Ophelia Ford will go forward as the Democratic nominee -- and favorite -- against Republican Terry Roland and independent Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges on the special general election ballot for state Senate, District 29, on September 15th.

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