Like two bare-chested little boys wading into the local swimming hole in their cutoffs to see who can hold their breath the longest, Congressman Bob Clement and former Mayor Phil Bredesen remain publicly noncommittal about their plans for next year’s gubernatorial race.
But friends of each of the two men say one thing is clear: Each wishes the other would stay out of the creek.
“I think Bob would probably love for Phil not to be in the race, and I think Phil would probably love for Bob not to be in the race,” says Charlie Cardwell, the Metro trustee and a Clement intimate. “I think basically what Bob would like to see happen is a primary that doesn’t beat each other up badly.”
That’s not likely to happen, assuming both men make the race. In fact, while those close to Bredesen would like to believeand have tried to advance the theorythat a Bredesen candidacy would scare Clement out of the race, Clement’s friends and others in touch with the Democratic congressman say that’s just not true.
“I do know that the people who are close to Clement think he’s gong to run regardless of what Bredesen’s going to do,” says at-large Metro Council member Chris Ferrell, who’s already begun fund-raising and has launched an organized campaign to replace Clement in Congress.
“I’m taking [Clement] at that. He hasn’t definitely said that he’s going to, but he’s said he’s getting a positive feedback from people. He’s been acting like a candidate, traveling the state and raising money.”
Moreover, Ferrell says, “I don’t know that the assessment of people close to Bredesen is correct.”
While Bredesen probably would prefer to be the Democratic Party’s consensus candidate for the governor’s race next year, part of him may relish a Clement rematch. In 1987, during the special congressional election to replace Bill Boner, who came home to be mayor, Bredesen, of course, lost to Clement.
Fifteen years later, after an eight-year stint as an aggressive mayor, Bredesen’s a different candidate, not the quiet, geeky unknown he was then. It’s nevertheless interesting to note how much each vote cost the two candidates in that 1987 race. Clement spent $672,818 on the congressional campaign and received 43,781 votes. That’s $15.37 a vote. Bredesen spent $1,709,867 and received 39,590 votes. That’s $43.19 vote.
One of the big questions this time around is whether Bredesen would challenge the relatively new (and, some say, unconstitutional) state law that says candidates can only spend $250,000 of their own money on a campaign. If he decided to run and came to the politically correct conclusion that voters would resent him for throwing his fortune into the election, the race would be a much more leveland interestingone.
The most important question, of course, is one that neither of the potential candidates have answered: Why do they want to run in the first place?
Pressing the flesh
Forget about the fact that Bredesen and Clement had lunch, that the former mayor’s been reading thick, eye-glazing state financial reports, or that everyone’s raising money. The most striking evidence to support that Bredesen, anyway, is leaning toward a gubernatorial run was his attendance at last week’s annual Coon Supper in Covington, Tenn.
The traditional gatheringwhich features, yes, raccoonhas been drawing statewide politicians and other community leaders across the state since 1945. Bredesen, more of a sushi guy than a varmint connoisseur, simply doesn’t go to stuff like that unless he has a reason to.
In fact, Bredesen doesn’t make it to the Coon Supper annually. The last time he went was right around 1994, the year he first ran for governor.
Hill bill dies
Sadly, a “news in brief” item from The Onion’s Web site (www.theonion.com) this week doesn’t sound that incredibly farfetched:
NASHVILLE, TNDemocratic supporters of H.R. 3470, the Shelby County Millage Act, were right sorry Monday when the bill up and died in the Tennessee General Assembly. “We done supported that bill like a mama possum supports her young ‘uns,” said Rep. Clem McCombs (D-Pikeville), the bill’s sponsor. “But the committee process was just too ornery.” Rep. Lefty Perkins (R-Pigeon Forge), chairman of the House Committee On Looking After Your Own Business, celebrated the death of the bill by firing his shotgun into the air.
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