When an invitation for state Sen. Steve Dickerson's first annual Jammin' and Biscuits at the Loveless Barn hit the inbox last week, we were pretty sure we knew why Nashville's first-term Republican senator was already raising money.
OK, actually, we briefly entertained a number of unlikely theories about his political ambitions before settling on the most plausible reason that a senator who's not up for re-election until 2016 would be hosting a fundraiser with headliner guests like Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey: because a little more money never hurts. We just didn't necessarily expect him to be so honest about it.
"The opportunity to engage in public service has been much more enjoyable than I thought," Dickerson tells Pith, after stepping away from a set of speakers piping
Republican country music throughout the Barn. "This is really, very rewarding. It's a lot of fun. And thinking ahead to 2016, if I want to run for re-election, I'm trying to figure out what I can do to position myself for that. I think one of the things that would really help me discourage primary opponents or even general election opponents is to have a big war chest."
Fair enough. And at $50 per head ($2,500 per couple to sponsor and $1,000 per couple to host), the well-attended inaugural Jammin' and Biscuits will definitely help.
When Pith arrives, Dickerson — a doctor and guitar player and can one guy really have any more going for him? — is on stage playing with fellow state Sen. Jack Johnson. Along with the aforementioned special guests, Haslam and Ramsey, the Barn is filled with, you know, Republicans. Near the food, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell is chatting with former Metro Councilman / state Rep. / Davidson County Election Commission Jim Gotto (oh that we could have eavesdropped on that conversation). And there's Duane Dominy, the Metro Councilman who was briefly jailed last week after he failed to appear in court for a citation he received from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Pith had reached out to Dominy after his arrest, and he says he had intended to get back to us until his attorney discouraged him from doing so. (Sounds like a good lawyer.)
Also mingling about, along with other legislators, various staffers and the like: Sen. Bill Ketron, Councilman Robert Duvall, Councilman and Democratic state Rep. Bo Mitchell...huh?
Pith was pleased to see someone looking equally out of place, but still, why is Bo Mitchell here?
"We have to work together," Mitchell says. "I think he and I displayed what we need more of in this state. People working together across party lines. Not all issues are blue or red. They're for the betterment of this state. I think, for the most part, we both have that at heart. We're trying to do the right thing for our district. We're standing in my council district, my state House district and his state Senate district, and we have to do what's best for the people of this community."
In the front of the room, Dickerson is tending to what amounts to a receiving line, shaking hands and making small talk with name-tagged attendees. He's doing well. From Pith's vantage point, you can't tell who he knows, who he's forgotten and who he's just meeting for the first time. He can be heard telling one guest that while he plays guitar, his personality is that of a bass player. He says being at the front of the room, and the center of attention, feels unusual.
"When I ran I said I was going to run on jobs, education, cutting government waste and staying out of the press," he tells Pith later on. "I really tried to focus on blocking and tackling, and after session I said, well I probably stayed out of the press a little too well."
"This is going to really age me," he adds. "I'm more Michael Anthony than David Lee Roth."
Pith invites the senator to follow up after the event, and disclose his take for the night. But he declines.