Bushwhacking Al 

Gore announcement comes amid bad news

Gore announcement comes amid bad news

Nashville readers didn’t get it from their daily newspaper, but two new companion polls this week, conducted for the Boston Herald, show Texas Gov. George Bush not only with more support in New Hampshire than nine Republican foes combined, but with a double-digit lead over Vice President Al Gore.

Gore, who comes home to Carthage this week for his much-hyped presidential candidacy announcement, trails Bush in the poll by a full 22 percentage points. According to the poll, if the presidential election were held now, Bush would trounce Gore, 54 percent to 32 percent.

Meanwhile, the numbers spell even more bad news for another hometown boy. It’s taken several thousand free lobsters for former Gov. Lamar Alexander to get each of the three percentage points the poll shows he has among Republicans there.

Alexander, who has several times hosted hungry masses of New Hampshire Republicans to lobster dinners, can only hope a strong showing in the first caucus state of Iowa in February keeps his suffering candidacy alive.

Come again?

The first televised debate of the mayoral election aired this week, revealing few surprises or evocative details but offering a closer look at the personalities of the candidates running to succeed Mayor Phil Bredesen.

The debate found Vice Mayor Jay West trying endearingly hard, coming off as a kind of well-prepared but overly anxious debate team captain who occasionally flubbed his lines. Former state House Majority Leader Bill Purcell was the most articulate, with all the cadences of a passionate preacher. But while he seemed to be the most comfortable man in the room, it was even easy to forget that he continually missed opportunities to be specific. Meanwhile, presumed mayoral front-runner Dick Fulton, who declared an undeserved debate victory after it was all over, came off as the sort of seasoned older teacher who perhaps used poor strategy by referring to doing this or that in 1977.

School board member Murray Philip, who dramatically raised his hand to the air promising not to raise taxes if elected mayor, was more poised and reasonable than most viewers familiar with his tirades during school board meetings have probably ever seen him. And the youthful third-grade teacher, Richard Frank, wasn’t entirely without merit, although he looked like a child dressed in his father’s suit (a la the Frosted Mini Wheat commercials), and it was clear how unschooled he was on non-education issues. To give Frank—who would be better off running for a district Metro Council seat—credit where it’s due, though, he was the most willing to take shots at the otherwise exalted Bredesen.

Still, the color award from the debate, sponsored in part by the Nashville Women’s Political Caucus, goes to little-known candidate Jessie McDonald, who offered a surprisingly risqué response to the predictable question of whether he supported the idea of more women in Metro Government. Men, he said, “don’t know which head to use at the right time.”

Air warring

Nashville voters can expect to be bombarded with political advertisements debuting on television later this month. Mayoral candidates have been taping their commercials over the past week or two and plan to start airing them in the next two weeks.

Continuing a trend in the campaign, it appears Fulton will be the first out of the gates. The former mayor says his plans are for voters to see his televised campaign messages before the end of June. West, meanwhile, says his commercials will go up after July 1. And Purcell is keeping that information close to the vest, citing it as a delicate strategy issue.

Fighting fires

Firefighters all over Nashville are celebrating the fact that none of the mayoral candidates secured enough votes from their union membership for an endorsement. While Fulton won the support of 62 percent of those voting, he was shy of the required two-thirds to snatch the union’s official endorsement.

That leaves firefighters, among the most politically savvy and energetic employees in Metro, to campaign for the candidate of their liking rather than feel compelled to toe the union line on a chosen successor to Bredesen.

The firefighters, too, were sufficiently split on the vice mayoral candidates as to be uncommitted in that race as well. At-large Metro Council member Ronnie Steine, running to succeed Jay West for vice mayor, was, like Fulton, just shy of the union’s endorsement.

Meanwhile, the legislative committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing Metro police officers, sent ballots to its membership this week for political endorsements. Along with those ballots were recommendations to support mayoral candidate Purcell and vice mayoral candidate Steine.

Perhaps more than anything else, the FOP board’s recommendation of Purcell, taken together with the split firefighter support, are a blow to West, who has spent a Council career supporting police and fire interests.

To reach Liz, call her at 244-7989, ext. 406, or e-mail her at liz@nashvillescene.com.

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