When former Gov. Ned McWherter says it’s time for the Democrats to get moving on a gubernatorial candidate, the wheels start to turn.
That’s what happened Sunday at Vice President Al Gore’s appreciation party for 1996 campaign volunteers at the Hermitage. McWherter, who, except for Gore (or maybe instead of Gore), is perhaps Tennessee’s most beloved Democrat, said he was a little dismayed that the state Democratic Party has yet to turn up a consensus candidate to run against Gov. Don Sundquist next year.
“It’s not at all too late for someone to run for governor, but the time is passing,” he said. “It’s time for somebody to do something.”
The next day, Tennessee Democratic Party chairman Houston Gordon suddenly echoed the sentiment, telling political writers at an informal luncheon at the Gerst Haus, “If I had my druthers, I would have [a candidate] by Aug. 15. We don’t need to wait much longer.”
Precious fund-raising time is passing while the party’s most respected and highest-ranking leaders are talking among themselves about who should run. At this point, Democrats would be well advised to run a consensus candidate who has personal wealth to spend against Sundquist, who already has a war chest of more than $3 million. New personal-spending limits for candidates are in place, but those limits would probably be quickly thrown out if challenged in court.
Besides Mayor Phil Bredesen or health-care entrepreneur Clayton McWhorter, Chattanooga businessman Olan Mills is one of the wealthiest powers in Tennessee’s Democratic Party. Although the photography king briefly entertained the idea of running for governor, at McWherter’s behest in 1994, he’s told Gordon he’s not interested.
For the good of the party, some Democrats wish that McWherter himself would run, although that’s an idea he says he doesn’t like. “I wish we could talk the governor [McWherter] into running,” Gordon says. “He would win without spending a dime.”
It’s his call
Mayor Phil Bredesen is still theoretically a possible gubernatorial candidate, although his wife, Andrea Conte, told the Scene this week that he seems to be uninterested by the idea.
“He’s been against it so far,” she said. “It’s up to him, whatever makes him happy.”
When the smoke clears
A former media consultant to Vice President Al Gore is now working for the tobacco-company conglomerate that has been negotiating a $368 billion settlement with attorneys general from 40 states.
Carter Eskew, who worked on Gore’s 1984 U.S. Senate campaign, is giving media advice to Philip Morris, RJR Nabisco, and three other tobacco companies that must pay for costs associated with smoking-related illnesses. Eskew’s involvement is somewhat ironic given the Clinton/Gore administration’s anti-tobacco position.
But then again, it did take the vice president a good 12 years to become publicly outraged over tobacco use. Eskew was an adviser back when Gore was somewhat pro-tobaccobefore last year’s Democratic National Convention, when Gore made an emotional speech recalling his sister’s 1984 death from lung cancer.
Reycling advocate Chip Forrester, a former congressional candidate and a former staffer for Gore while the vice president was still in the U.S. Senate, took some shots at Mayor Phil Bredesen and several Metro Council members in a recent issue of the recycling newsletter ReNews.
Rehashing Metro Council’s January vote on whether to upgrade downtown’s controversial, trash-burning Thermal plant or to convert it to a cleaner-burning gas facility, Forrester writes that Bredesen “has been a dismal disappointment and failure on all environmental fronts, most notably capping his career as mayor by spending $39 million and shoving the Thermal incinerator down our city’s throat for the next 18 years.”
Forrester, past president of the recycling advocacy group Recycle Nashville, also trashes several Council members in the newsletter. Foremost among them is Council member-at-large Ronnie Steine, who went along with Bredesen and who, Forrester writes, “vigorously solicited and received the support of Nashville’s progressive community” when he first ran countywide. “Councilman Steine apparently has forgotten his roots, choosing to dance with who last asked him rather than who first brought him.”
Forrester also singles out three Council members who he says initially told him they were committed to the environmental side but then defected to Bredesen when it came time to vote. The turncoats, he says, were Council member-at-large Vic Varallo and Council members Saletta Holloway and Morris Haddox.
Forrester might have been better off if he hadn’t taken his commitments so seriously. Vic Varallo, after all, has never been anybody’s ace in the hole.
To reach Liz, call her at 615-244-7989, ext. 406, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
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