Mayoral front-runner Dick Fulton is collecting a small army of prominent Nashvillians for his campaign team, including a top supporter of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s.
Among the finance co-chairs Fulton has named for next year’s nonpartisan mayoral race is Tom Cone, president and chairman of Cone Oil Co., who was also the Davidson County finance chairman for Sundquist’s re-election campaign.
Cone shares his role with attorney Bob Thomas, former chairman of the state Democratic Party who has served campaign functions for former Gov. Ned McWherter, former Sen. Jim Sasser, Mayor Phil Bredesen, and Clinton/Gore. Also on the finance team are local real estate titan Shirley Zeitlin and J.B. Baker, president of a local trucking company.
Fulton has already raised $400,000 for the August 1999 race, a large figure in contrast to the more modest fund-raising efforts of his opponents, Vice Mayor Jay West and former state lawmaker Bill Purcell.
While civic enthusiasm for a Fulton candidacy is not exactly dominating the Metro conversation, the former mayor has the benefit of a slew of past cronies who feel obliged to support him. Not everyone who’s formerly been associated with the aging Fulton (he’ll be 71 next month) is happy that he wants to top off his political career with a fourth term as mayor. Some of them quietly resent the bid but are, for a variety of reasons, maintaining their support.
Still, that Fulton is seen as the man to beat puts the burden on his opponents. Meanwhile, voters may be looking to support the candidate who can be most articulate about the two issues that seem to be dominating the public consciousness and the political conversation: quality of life in Nashville, and effectively managing the fiscal health of a city that, over the past eight years, has financially extended itself in the pursuit of civic projects.
The Atlanta law firm putting pressure on the school board to revise the city’s $206 million voluntary desegregation plan by rejecting any use of racial quotas has hired a local attorney to work on its behalf.
The conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation, which describes itself as a public interest law firm specializing in constitutional issues, has hired Nashville lawyer Buck Cole.
The school board this week finally agreed to abandon the controversial double lottery system for the city’s magnet schools that set aside about 40 percent of the slots for blacks. Foundation officials, however, say they will continue to put pressure on the city to rework other aspects of the city’s costly desegregation plan. The plan, funded by the Metro Council during the last budget debate, was the city’s effort to end longstanding federal court supervision over Metro schools.
The magnet school quotas had to be addressed because city attorneys advised the school board they would not withstand a constitutional challenge. But also of concern to the foundation is the use of race to help determine the new school zone lines that are part of the costly desegregation plan. City attorneys say the plan can be defended because other factors went into shaping the districts and because courts have allowed the use of socioeconomic diversity as a legitimate factor. Still, the foundation wants to see the school board reconsider how it has drawn the zones.
“The foundation certainly doesn’t want to be an outside agitator,” says Valle Dutcher, associate general counsel for the foundation. “We are students of the constitution as well as litigators and frequently we have cases in which we end up consulting with the government, talking with the attorneys, working something out. Or sometimes, we file suit and once it’s on the table they back off.”
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