While some local elected officials are still paying off lingering campaign debts from 1995 races, Vice Mayor Jay West is kicking off his probable 1999 mayoral bid this week with a fundraiser at the Nashville City Club.
The Thursday-evening event is being billed as an appreciation dinner for West, who is no longer playing games about his mayoral ambitions. “Hum. Fundraiser, fundraiser,” West said playfully, affecting a sudden innocence. After a brief, joking attempt at coyness, he said, “Yes. I’m raising some money to look at what the next two years have to offer, including a run for mayor.” West’s father, Ben, served as Nashville’s mayor from 1951-1963.
As is typical of some high-dollar fundraisers, there are no invitations for the West dinner, and there is no specified price for participation. However, the unofficial, per-head contribution is $500. “That’s what’s floating around, although people can give anything they want,” one lobbyist said.
West is counting on Mayor Phil Bredesen to fade into the political background. Bredesen has said it is highly unlikely that he will run for a third four-year term, although more than a few civic and business leaders are encouraging him to stick around and see to completion some of the initiatives for which he’s responsiblenamely the pro football stadium, the new downtown library, and the implementation of a new elementary-school curriculum in Metro.
West is the most aggressive candidate so far, with former Mayor Richard Fulton as his most likely competition. The vice mayor says he would bow out to support Bredesen if the incumbent mayor were to run again. But, if Fulton jumps into the race, West says he’s sticking to his guns.
Meanwhile, Bredesen has been keeping an interesting schedule of late. It’s a slow time in Metro. It’s been a month since those rigorous days and nights that led up to Metro Council’s vote on his $1 billion budget for the new fiscal year.
Bredesen recently took the time to speak to a civic group in Knoxville. Then he accepted an invitation to address a group in Tullahoma, although that engagement was ultimately canceled due to city business.
Asked about the out-of-town appearances, Bredesen press secretary Shannon Hunt said with a wide grin that a lot of Tennessee cities are interested in what’s been going on in Nashville and that she expects Bredesen to be accepting future invitations across the state in the coming weeks and months.
That’s curious. The only logical reason for Bredesen to speak in farflung cities is to develop support for a statewide electionsuch as next year’s gubernatorial race. And Bredesen has told the Scene he’s really not interested the governor’s race.
Why then would he be acting like a candidate? Here’s some pure speculation: It’s well known that Bredesen shares a mutual dislike with gubernatorial hopeful and fellow Democrat Bill Purcell. Insiders suspect the mayor is simply trying to annoy the former state legislator.
Bredesen and Purcell were never buddies, but their relationship deteriorated further a few years ago when Bredesen and the Houston Oilers sought the state Legislature’s support for funding of the stadium, to be built in what was then Purcell’s legislative district. Purcell thumbed his nose at the idea and refused to sponsor the legislation.
Local Bass Berry & Sims attorney Cliff Knowles is emerging as the favorite candidate for a newly created Circuit Court judgeship in Nashville.
Knowles, a Democrat, has appointed a campaign treasurerMarlene Eskind Mosesfor his campaign in preparation for next year’s election for the open seat. Local judges and lawyers say Knowles is highly regarded and has likely scared away any potential challengers.
He was among a group of local lawyers who applied for a gubernatorial appointment to a Chancery Court vacancy a few years ago. Ultimately, though, Gov. Don Sundquist appointed Judge Ellen Lyle, a Republican now considering a party switch for next year’s countywide elections.
It could be that Metro will lose its only elected official who speaks fluent Japanese.
West Meade residents, angered by Metro Council member Eric Crafton’s flip-flop on the proposed Wal-Mart near Brookmeade Elementary School, have initiated an effort to recall the 29-year-old Council member. The effort appears to be well organized.
Constituents must gather the signatures of 2,000 registered voters in Council’s 23rd District to oust Crafton, a Vanderbilt University graduate who studied Japanese at Keio University in Tokyo.
While Crafton is smart and likable, he has been vilified by the mayor’s office for being a consistent contrarion, since he led the charge for a referendum on the stadium question. He has drawn strong criticism for saying he’d oppose the development of the Wal-Mart superstore in his district, then later saying he’d support it.
Crafton has apologized for the inconsistency, attributing it to his inexperience as a Council member, but that hasn’t taken the wind out of his opponents’ efforts to oust him from local office.
Crafton’s colleagues in Council seem to think the residents will get enough signatures for a recall, but they question whether his opponents can find a candidate who can actually beat him in a district-wide election.
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