Heavy Lifting 

Candidates backed by organized labor have little success

Candidates backed by organized labor have little success

It wasn’t such a good year for Nashville’s civil service set. Organized labor’s disappointing run in local races this political season culminated last week in Chris Ferrell’s loss in the vice mayoral contest to fellow at-large Metro Council member Howard Gentry. While Gentry’s own political strength has to be given partial credit for that outcome, Ferrell, it turns out, was just the latest in a string of candidates cursed by labor endorsements.

Whether this phenomenon is some sort of coincidence or whether it’s a sign that organized labor is becoming less relevant in an increasingly complex world is anyone’s guess. But in several key races here recently, voters have gone with the more conservative-minded alternative.

The year’s first victim was Metro Council member Leo Waters, who ran for sheriff with the endorsement of the local Service Employees International Union. His opponent, newly sworn Sheriff Daron Hall, not only didn’t kowtow to the labor organization, but wasn’t afraid to criticize it, essentially saying during the campaign that he didn’t expect to get the nod from labor and that he frankly didn’t much care.

Outgoing Sheriff Gayle Ray, who ran for Congress, shared labor endorsements with fellow candidate John Arriola. Both tanked against Jim Cooper, a more conservative former congressman, who, it should also be noted, personally bankrolled a large portion of his campaign.

State legislative candidates with labor backing also bombed. David King, who ran for the state House seat Arriola vacated to run for Congress, and Jeff Wilson, a software developer who ran for the state Senate against 32-year veteran Douglas Henry, both were backed by labor—and, if you’re getting the gist of this column, you know by now that they lost.

In line

Howard Gentry, who’s been serving as acting vice mayor since the resignation of Ronnie Steine, now becomes the city’s elected leader of council—until next year, when we have to elect the entire legislative body all over again. Ferrell, meanwhile, will serve out his final year, then term limits will relegate him to civilian life.

In the meantime, the qualifying deadline for candidates who want to fill Gentry’s unexpired at-large Metro Council seat is Wednesday, the day this issue of the Scene hits the streets. Names of possible candidates being circulated at press time included former Nashville Sounds owner Larry Schmittou, who—let’s face it—has held many a baby. Community volunteer and law student Adam Dread, who ran unsuccessfully for an at-large position in 1999, is also said to be considering a bid.

Snubbed

Rural Middle Tennesseans are starting to feel a little snubbed by gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen, who was a no-show at last weekend’s Democratic gathering at Charles Hands’ Robertson County farm, where Al Gore apparently delivered an uncharacteristically stirring speech to a crowd of about 2,000. U.S. Senate candidate Bob Clement attended, as did presumed 5th District congressman-elect Jim Cooper and all manner of other legislative candidates. As for the high-volume carping about Bredesen’s absence, what are those Democrats going to do? Vote for Van Hilleary?

Vic, you won

We at the Scene could not be more excited that Vic Lineweaver, the Metro Council member who’s been elected and sworn in as juvenile court clerk, has wrenched the position away from Kenny Norman, an administrator most agree was ineffective. But Lineweaver, who’s been known to appear at the opening of an envelope (a stolen observation from Adam Dread), is still making the rounds like he’s a candidate. Vic, the votes are counted. You really did win.

In the spirit of Swift

The letters are still coming in from the column in this space two weeks ago—the one outlining gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary’s covert plan to support and institute a state income tax. (Garbage surveillance, readers might recall, was the investigative tool that helped us crack this story.) The thing is: We were being satirical, folks. We tell you this to put you out of your misery—and to urge you to cease and desist the earnest letter writing.

Coming next week: Lamar Alexander drops out of Senate race, then donates all stock holdings to a commune and names it Blueberry Farms.

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