Thursday, February 27, 2014

Faced With a Post-Mike Turner World, a Field of Candidates Emerges

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 2:49 PM

After Nashville Rep. Mike Turner, the state House Democratic Caucus Chairman who is considering a 2015 mayoral run, announced this morning that he will not seek re-election this fall, near pandemonium ensued in Democratic circles.

Within the hour, multiple individuals confirmed that they are considering a run for the seat in a district that will almost certainly remain in Democratic hands. Turner knows this, or else he says he wouldn't be leaving.

"My district is solid Democrat district," he told reporters after making the announcement. "If [Republicans] had a chance of winning my district I would not step down."

As of this writing, five people have confirmed to either Pith or The Tennessean's Michael Cass (or both) that they are considering a run. They are: Zak Kelley, Wade Munday, Freddie O'Connell, Anthony Davis, and Kenny Byrd.

And the rumor mill continues to churn out even more names than that.

Kelley has served as Senior Policy Advisor to House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh for several years. He says he's still deciding whether to run, but his candidacy would be notable for, among other reasons, his age — he's 26 years old — and the fact that he's openly gay in a state with a legislature that has been relatively unmoved by the accelerating progress of gay rights in other states.

"At this point, I plan to pull papers, talk to my friends, my neighbors and go around the district," Kelley tells Pith. "I think I have a unique perspective, as both an LGBT person and someone who has worked in the legislature, that may enable me to get some things done that others coudn't. At the end of the day,it will come down to this: where can I be the most help for Nashville and the issues I care most about? When I know the answer to that question, I will make a final decision. Either way, I think there are going to be some great people running for this seat, so the people of District 51 will be well represented."

Munday, who currently serves as treasurer for the Tennessee Democratic Party, says he will pick up a petition today but that he's still in the "considering phase." He does say, however, that he's already spoken to "major donors" and received some commitments.

For his part, Byrd, who sits on the Metro Fair Board, confirmed his interest but said he was still taking in the news.

"Today I'm digesting the fact that we're losing a great Democrat and a great House member in the legislature," he says. "Is it something that I'll look into? Yeah."

O'Connell, who serves on the Metro Transit Authority's board of directors and ran for the state House against now-House Speaker Beth Harwell more than 10 years ago, tells Cass that he hasn't yet decided whether to run. Davis, an East Nashville member of the Metro Council, tells him the same.

For our money, the best commentary so far on the flurry of potential Democratic primary activity came from Matt Anderson, press secretary for the Senate Democrats and an East Nashvillian:

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