Mayor Bill Purcell, who has been mentioned as a possiblecongressional candidate, is promising he won’t bail out of office to go to Washington.
“Let me just say that I was just in Washington yesterday and I feel even more strongly about it today,” Purcell told the Scene last week. “It was very nice arriving in Washington, but the best part was flying away. There’s no question about that.”
Purcell has been considered a prime candidate for Rep. Bob Clement’s seat should Clement run for the Democratic nomination for governor, as expected, in 2002, the year before Purcell’s first mayoral term is complete.
Metro Council member Morris Haddox, once the victim of Al Gore’s youthful reportorial exuberance, harbors no bitterness toward the vice president.
Haddox’s pharmacy is just nine blocks down Charlotte Avenue from Gore’s new national headquarters. And last week as the vice presidential motorcade went by, Haddox waved to Gore.
But 25 years ago, relations between the two weren’t so amicable. As a young political reporter for The Tennessean, Gore worked with a real estate developer, his publisher John Seigenthaler, and then-District Attorney Tom Shriver to devise a sting operation they thought would flush out Haddox, then an up-and-comer in the black community who they suspected was taking bribes in connection with his Metro Council duties.
The scheme nailed Haddox taking $300 in cash in exchange for reintroducing a bill the developer wanted. The string of events led to a Davidson County Grand Jury indictment on bribery charges and Haddox’s arrest in February 1974 in the Council chamber as he was, ironically, attending a meeting of the Council’s ethics committee. There was one mistrial; then Haddox was acquitted in a second trial after transcripts of the tape-recorded transactions were ruled inadmissible.
As recently as 1992, Haddox wasn’t quite over the episode. “He needs to stop lying,” the pharmacist told the Scene in September 1992 as part of a cover story on Gore. “I ain’t ever been found guilty of anything.”
At that time, Haddox told the Scene the sting operation was an effort by whites to undermine black progress in Nashville. “They were trying to reduce the size of the Council, to take the blacks out. It’s quite obvious how Mr. Gore took after us.”
Now, Haddox has a different attitude. “We’re on a very cordial basis, and I expect it to stay that way,” Haddox says, noting that he’s attended several events with Gore since the sting, most recently a National League of Cities convention in Arkansas last year where Haddox “got a chance to shake his hand.”
“I don’t have any problems with him. The answer is, we’re alright.”
As Gore’s presidential campaign flails, he can take some comfort in this: The popularity and fund-raising success his Democratic nemesis Bill Bradley is enjoying elsewhere around the country isn’t taking hold in Tennessee.
The Democratic nomination will be long determined before the presidential contest reaches Tennessee voters. Still, it’s worth noting that the Volunteer State is solidly in Gore’s court.
More than 1,850 individuals in Tennessee contributed donations of $250 or more to Gore’s campaign between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political contributions. Meanwhile, only 23 people in Tennessee contributed the same amount to Bradley, according to the organization’s database.
Bradley has no organization in Tennessee to speak of. Two months of phone calls to the former NBA star’s New Jersey presidential headquarters, asking for county chairs or other organizers for Bradley here, produced no names. Even Tennessee Democratic Party officials remain unaware of any Bradley activity here. Both Greg Wanderman, executive director of the state party, and Will Cheek, former party chairman, know of no grassroots Bradley support in Tennessee. “I just don’t think there is any,” Cheek says.
And while Texas Gov. George W. Bush has outraised Gore more than 2-to-1 nationally$56 million to Gore’s $24 millionthe vice president is kicking Lone Star tail in his home state. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Bush has received only 228 contributions of $250 or more from Tennesseans between January and June.
As long as Gore characterizes his campaign as “rip tootin’,” he needs that kind of news.
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