Mayor Phil Bredesen’s press secretary, Tam Gordon, is moving on to take a job as communications director at Vanderbilt University’s Freedom Forum First Amendment Center.
A top-notch Metro reporter for the Nashville Banner before being snatched up by Bredesen in 1991, Gordon succeeds Bracey Campbell, who left the Freedom Forum June 28 to become vice president of development and communications at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss.
Gordon says Freedom Forum Chairman John Seigenthaler called her a few weeks ago. She starts her new job on Monday.
“It was a tough decision,” says Gordon, who told Bredesen about the call from Seigenthaler and then included the mayor in the decision-making process.
Bredesen even met with Seigenthaler to talk about Gordon’s job description.
“I just came away thinking it’s a great opportunity,” Bredesen says. “I encouraged her very strongly to take the job. I always feel good when somebody leaves here to go on to something which is clearly better. I felt this way in the private sector too.”
Bredesen says Gordon, who announced her move to the mayoral staff Monday, was a cornerstone of his staff.
“She has been a very fine press secretary, but her role in the office very rapidly grew to be much broader than that,” he says.
Bredesen says he and Gordon have talked about some potential replacements, but there’s nothing to report yet.
Gordon will be missed, not only by Bredesen and his staff but by political reporters in Nashville, with whom she has spent much of her time as a press secretary and, before that, as a serious beat reporter.
A familiar face
A few Tennessee Democrats have found themselves scratching their heads lately whenever a news program pops up about the FBI file mess. Craig Livingstone, who recently resigned as White House security chief, looks particularly familiar.
And with just cause. When Al Gore ran for president in 1988, a number of young advance men were on hand to open his doors, carry his bags, and point him in the right direction whenever he was too exhausted to know which way to turn. Livingstone was one of those guys.
“I roomed with him a lot,” says Mike Kopp, who handled press relations for the Gore campaign and has since hooked up with The Ingram Group. “He kind of became our head advance guy.”
Kopp remembers that, when then-candidate Gary Hart was forced to pull out of the presidential race because of his escapade with Donna Rice, several experienced hands from the Hart campaign moved to Gore’s campaign. One of them was Livingstone.
“Livingstone was great at what he did, which was worrying about logistics and Secret Service. He played a pretty crucial role in the campaign. He was real easygoing, not one to get uptight, and he got along with everybody,” Kopp recalls.
Kopp has nothing but positive things to say about Livingstone on the campaign trail, but he does admit that “I could never picture him in the White House, behind a desk managing an operation. I never saw the side of him in my mind that would justify him having a pretty key job in the White House.”
Metro Council member Vic Varallo’s state Senate campaign against incumbent Demo-cratic Sen. Joe Haynes has gone professional. Varallo’s original campaign manager, John Butler, has stepped into the background to handle signs, and the state Republican party has installed political consultant David Spady to call the shots from now on.
A Montana native, Spady recently moved to Nashville from California, where he worked on many high-profile campaigns, including a U.S. Senate race, a gubernatorial race, and a statewide school-choice initiative. Spady is the brother-in-law of Houston Oilers head coach Jeff Fisher.
He is also consulting for the campaign of state Sen. Carol Rice (R-Clarksville), who has been targeted by the state Democratic Party. Democrat Rosalind Kurita is expected to win the Democratic primary Aug. 1 and give Rice a hard time in the November general election.
Spady is expected to issue a news release to publicize the results of a campaign poll that indicates that Varallo’s name recognition in the district is four percentage points higher than Haynes’. Spady attributes Varallo’s good numbers to his successful Metro Council campaign last year, his 30-plus-year coaching career, and the reputation of Varallo’s family restaurant.
Varallo, though, is still seen as a long shot.
Metro Trustee Charlie Cardwell is showing his partisan colors lately, and he’s raising the hackles of the few Republicans on Metro Council.
Using the letterhead of Democratic Chancery Court candidate Carol McCoy, Cardwell has circulated a letter to Council members, asking them to support McCoy and all other Democrats on Aug. 1.
“The Republicans are trying to take over our local Davidson County elected offices,” says Cardwell’s letter, which goes on to ask Council members to attend a Democratic fund-raiser sponsored by the Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO.
The state Republican Party newsletter, Grassroots, points out that one candidacy in a county-level judicial race does not amount to “trying to take over” Davidson County politics.
The newsletter also notes that on June 9 The Tennessean quoted Cardwell as saying that, even though McCoy’s opponent, incumbent Ellen Hobbs Lyle, is “one of the finest judges that we have” in Davidson County, he was still determined to support the Democratic ticket.
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