Elbow Throwing 

Congressional jockeying begins in earnest

Congressional jockeying begins in earnest

It must be an ego boost to Democratic Congressman Bob Clement to know that he holds so many political futures in his bare hands. Whether or not he runs for governor next year literally could change the story lines of several local political dramas.

Clement’s current indecisiveness has a direct bearing, for example, on whether Vice Mayor Ronnie Steine will go to Congress in Clement’s place, possibly ascend to the U.S. Senate, or even join a future Gore administration. Or if Clement keeps his seat next year, it would force Steine, considered by some to be the only Nashvillian who could beat incumbent Mayor Bill Purcell in the 2003 mayoral race, to stay home and instead consider those uphill chances.

For someone like at-large Council member Chris Ferrell, who, like Steine, is a pretty sure congressional candidate if Clement takes a chance and runs for governor, it might mean the difference between fading on the local political scene when term limits put him out of the Council in two years or going to Congress, then coming back someday to run for governor.

Running for Congress next year might also be the best and only shot for local attorney Chase Cole, who has long been active in Democratic politics but is only now beginning to consider running “just for the fact that the job may be open.”

Others, including at-large Council member David Briley, state Rep. John Arriola, Council member Ludye Wallace, U.S. Attorney Quenton White, or even Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy, are all tempering their dinner-table talk based on Clement’s next move.

Some of the same people—and many others—have been here before. This is Clement’s M.O. His lifelong ambition has been to follow in father’s footsteps and become governor.

Perhaps the only consolation for all those waiting for Clement’s decision is the fact that Republican U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson may well control Clement’s fate. Were Thompson to run, he’s widely regarded as a virtual shoo-in.

A novel idea

More often than not, the way this politics thing works is that would-be candidates are approached by their friends, who pump them up and convince them they are fit to represent the people. It’s an almost uniquely unobjective process that often leads people to overestimate themselves, then launch painfully hopeless bids for public office. (Witness any number of recent candidacies ranging from Richard Frank for mayor in 1999 or any Republican who’s run for Congress in the Fifth District.)

The ones who really should run tend to take all that sunshine being blown up their backsides with a grain of salt. Sometimes, they’re even annoyed. Such is the case with Tam Gordon, a former Banner reporter, former press secretary for then-Mayor Phil Bredesen, and current program director for the First Amendment Center.

A recent campaign to convince Gordon to run for Congressman Bob Clement’s seat next year, should he abandon it to run for governor, has resulted in, well, a “cease and desist” order from Gordon—even though it happens to be a good idea.

For his part, Bredesen says he’d drop everything and campaign for Gordon were she to run. “Do I think Tam is brilliant and would do a great job at it? Absolutely. She is easily the most honest person I know,” he says. Bredesen cautions that several of the other potential candidates would make excellent representatives as well.

Gordon, of course, thinks this is all nonsense, so Bredesen might as well abandon the notion. Which goes to show, once again, that the best candidates are always the ones who aren’t.

P.S. Do not—absolutely do not—call Tam about this (at 321-9588).

A sense of irony

Environmentalists are still reeling over state House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh’s appointment of Democratic state Rep. Tim Garrett as chair of the body’s Environment and Conservation Committee.

For those unfamiliar with Garrett, he is the Goodlettsville lawmaker who has shown little, if any, outrage over the controversial sludge-processing facility in northern Davidson County called Show Me Farms. Neighbors of the 200-acre operation have complained of noxious smells and water pollution at the site, which has processed Metro sewage sludge to make compost.

If it weren’t bad enough to environmentalists that Garrett will lead the committee, state Rep. Gary Odom, probably the most informed House member on green issues, was passed over for the job. “Environmental advocates are disappointed that the person who’s been most aware of environmental issues is consistently passed over to be put in a position of leadership on these issues,” says Erin Kelley, executive director of Tennessee Conservation Voters.

Odom is disappointed but says he hopes the appointment is just a matter of seniority. (Garrett has two years on him.)

At any rate, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an environmentalist doesn’t chair the committee. A few years ago, Naifeh appointed a pesticide operator to lead the committee.

Chad happy

Never let it be said that the Tennessee General Assembly isn’t responsive. A bill that would preempt in Tennessee the kind of recent electoral mess in Florida is named as unoriginally as it is conceived: The 2000 Presidential Election Debacle Reform Bill of 2001.


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