Fate Thomas seems restless. From his base of operations at Bob Frensley Chrysler-Plymouth, the city’s former sheriff and quasi-political boss is savoring the scent of mayoral politics in the air. It is a glorious fragrance, but all is not settled.
“I think there’s someone else lurking out there,” says Thomas, who is asking twice as many questions as he is answering, trying to get to the root of what’s going on.
He is not alone. Last Tuesday, Phil Bredesen, who in nearly eight years of office has maintained amazingly high positives for a city mayor, announced he would not seek re-election. Three candidatesVice Mayor Jay West, former Mayor Richard Fulton, and former state Rep. Bill Purcellimmediately topped the list of candidates.
But some were sensing that the field lacked a certain type of candidate. Someone with a business background. Someone smart. Someone outside the normal orbit of political operatives, hacks, and consultants. Someone...just like Bredesen.
“When Bredesen came along, nobody had heard of him,” Thomas observes. “There’s probably someone out there who’s made a lot of money, and now is the right time. If they want, they can come along and make it happen.”
Thomas does not fault the current slate of mayoral wannabes. In fact, he has a lot of good things to say about them. But as far as his own political involvement goes, “We’re not locked in to anyone.” With his ear to the ground, Thomas wants to hear more.
So far, he says he has picked up on one person who is interested in adding his name to the list, although he says he wouldn’t know him if he saw him. “His name is Frank Garrison. This is just stuff I pick up in the beer halls of Donelson.”
For the record, Garrison, who is president of a New York-based investment company, says he did entertain the idea of a race. “I am extremely interested in participating in the future of Nashville, but don’t have any intentions at the present time of seeking any office,” Garrison says.
Meanwhile, Thomas also hearsas have numerous othersthat “the Bredesen people are looking” for someone else behind whom they can throw their support. Dave Cooley, the mayor’s former chief of staff, and a partner at the public relations firm of McNeely, Pigott & Fox, says, “I don’t think the Bredesen people per se have a direction as a group. And I think it’s really too early to tell much about the crop of candidates. It’ll take a little time for the dust to settle.”
A number of people have indeed been approached about joining the race. In recent days, entreaties have been madeagainto Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Dick Lodge, businessman Bob Corker, and First American Bank executive Denny Bottorff. Barring unforeseens, however, none is expected to make the race.
It may be the city’s business community that feels most chagrined by the current crop of candidates, and is thus most interested in finding another candidate. To them, Purcell is too union-oriented, West is not strong enough to do the job, and Fulton is a staunch Democrat. That said, Fulton may ultimately get their blessing.
Before the business communityand their mega-bucksfind a landing spot, however, the search will continue for another man or woman they might better enjoy.
Prediction: They won’t find anybody
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