Ronnie Steine, the popular West Nashville politico and Metro Council member-at-large, has stopped flirting with the idea of running for mayor in 1999. Instead, Steine plans to run next year in the countywide race for the part-time position of vice mayor.
But, as the Scene reported last week in its online edition, http://www.nashscene.com. , Steine may face serious opposition in the vice mayor’s contest. Tim Garrett, a state legislator and a Metro Council member, is giving the race serious consideration. If Mayor Phil Bredesen doesn’t run for reelection, and if Jay West, the current vice mayor, seeks to succeed him, then Garrett may well enter the vice mayor’s race.
Garrett cautions that it “seems to be early for everybody, since Mayor Bredesen hasn’t let anybody know what he’s going to do,” but he adds that he is “definitely thinking about” a run for vice mayor.
Leo Waters, who is currently serving his first four-year term as a Council member-at-large, says supporters have also approached him to consider running for vice mayor. Nevertheless, he isn’t expected to run for the job.
Announcing his plans last Thursday afternoon at the Metro Courthouse, Steine said his decision is based upon the assumption that Bredesen will not run for a third term and that West will seek the mayor’s office. “Right now,” Steine said, “I’m proceeding with the assumption that [both Bredesen and West] mean what they say.”
A term-limits question, likely to appear on either the August or November ballot, may well decide who runs for what. For the third time in four years, the limits question would ask voters to decide whether Metro Council members should be subject to a two-term limit. This year’s question would also clear up confusion about whether Bredesen can run for a third term.
If the ballot question passes, and if Bredesen does run for a third term and West runs for re-election to vice mayor, Steine says, he’ll “evaluate” the situation again. West has made it clear he will not run against Bredesen for mayor.
If Bredesen does step down, West predicts that several more Metro Council members will jump into the vice mayor’s race. “If it appears to be an open election, I think there’d be a lot of candidates,” West says. If the term-limits question fails, he says, a number of Council members may enter the vice mayor’s race as a means of remaining active in local politics. “That vote [on term limits] will set up the chess board,” West says.
Bredesen is sticking by his public statement that he has “no plans” to run for mayor, but speculation about a third Bredesen term has shiftedonce againduring the last several weeks. Close friends and supporters of the mayor are now guessing that he will, in fact, seek a third term if the ballot question passes. If Bredesen has any interest in running for governor again in 2002, they suggest, he will want to stay in office as mayor.
Clifton steps aside
Several years ago, Metro Council member Stewart Clifton was talking about running for the vice mayor’s job. Now he says that, when his current term in Council is up next year, he’ll be taking a break from politics altogether.
“I’ve determined I don’t want to [run for vice mayor],” Clifton says. “In fact, I have pretty firmly decided not to run for any office next year.” Clifton, known for his thoughtful, independent actions in Council, was first elected in 1987. He is currently serving his third term representing several Hillsboro-area neighborhoods.
Unlike many other Council members, Clifton has managed to walk the line between being his own man and being a friend of the mayor’s office. He’s remained on good terms with Bredesen even though he has opposed the mayor on issues such as the stadium project and the controversial upgrade of the trash-burning Thermal Transfer Plant downtown.
Clifton is expected to take an active, high-profile role in the mayoral campaign of former East Nashville state Rep. Bill Purcell, who has already announced his plans to run for mayor in August of 1999. Clifton says he’s not ruling out a future run for political office, but he says his current decision is firm, even if, in an expected upcoming election, voters overturn term limits for Metro Council members.
John Jay Hooker, altruist
John Jay Hooker, the tenacious advocate for campaign finance and judicial reform, says that, even if he can convince the Tennessee Court of Appeals or the Tennessee Supreme Court to eliminate “retention” elections for appellate judges, he doesn’t plan to put his own name on the ballot.
Hooker says one of his intentions is to open up the state’s 29 appellate court seats to more women and blacks. Right now, only one blackSupreme Court Justice A.A. Birchand only two women hold seats on the state-level courts, including the state Supreme Court, the Tennessee Court of Appeals, and the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
“I’m going to energize this thing and get the blacks and women motivated,” says Hooker, who is running this year for the Democratic nomination for governor.
If the state Supreme Court hears Hooker’s case, Supreme Court justices will probably recuse themselves, in which case a special court would be appointed. “I didn’t go bear hunting with a switch,” Hooker says. “I’ve got a high-powered gun with two barrelsone is the constitution of Tennessee and one is the constitution of the United States.”
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