At an intimate gathering last week, Mayor Phil Bredesen helped give his departing press secretary, Shannon Hunt, a warm sendoff. It’s not known how he plans to replace her, but his actions in this regard may give a hint to the mayor’s own political intentions.
Rumors during the past year-and-a-half about whether Bredesen will run for a third mayoral term have ranged from absolute certainty that he will to virtual assurance that he will not.
And the rumors haven’t all been coordinated. While his supporters may have been putting out the word that he’ll be back for a third term, others would purport to know that, in fact, he’s planning to step aside.
Of course, Bredesen has time on his side. For the time being, he has no obligation to announce his plans. But for the latest hints about the mayor’s future, observers are waiting to see how he will replace Hunt, who left Nashville this week for greener, and more prestigious, pastures in Washington, D.C., where she will join a public relations and political strategy firm.
Bredesen only has a year-and-a-half left in his term, which means his press secretary appointment could offer some insight into his political strategies. If the mayor manages to convince a relative heavy-hitter to become his flack, it might mean that he plans to seek a third term. If he hires someone with less experience, or if he hires no one at all, that might signal a Bredesen administration wind-down.
The choice is significant, both to the mayoral aspirants waiting in line and to the rest of Metro as well. If Bredesen were to run again, perhaps the only candidate who would not be adversely affected is Vice Mayor Jay West, who, because he is still in his first term as vice mayor, could simply run for reelection.
Meanwhile, about half of the Metro Council has already served two terms. Those Council members may not be able to run again because of term limits approved by voters in 1994. The Council, however, is likely to ask voters this year to vote on a question abolishing the limits. If that question passes, it would also clear up the cloudy issue of whether Bredesen is affected by the two-term limit.
Unlike West, who could continue as a countywide public official even if Bredesen runs again, former Mayor Dick Fulton is not likely to have another chance at running for Metro’s top office. Fulton, who says he would support Bredesen for a third term if he chose to run again, will be in his late 70s when the 2003 mayoral election rolls around and would probably be considered too old to run.
Former state legislator Bill Purcell may run regardless of what Bredesen does. But he would be the clear underdogat least from the standpoint of fund-raising.
For now, the mayor has asked a well-liked policy aide, former Banner reporter Steve Majchrzak, to handle media inquiries. As Bredesen pointed out during Hunt’s toasting and roasting last week, Majchrzak is the one who informed Hunt, shortly after she took over as press secretary, that Don King, the boxing promoter and overall shady character, is a convicted felon.
That was after Hunt scheduled Bredesen for a photo opportunity with King
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