VOL. 10 | NO. 9 | Saturday, February 25, 2017
Local Democrats and Republicans Prepare for 2018 Governor's Race
By Bill Dries
At least five potential Republican candidates for Tennessee governor in 2018 were among the crowd of 400 people at the Saturday, Feb. 25, Lincoln Day Gala of the Shelby County Republican Party.
Meanwhile, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry told a group of 150 Democrats at an “Obama Day” event Saturday that they and other Democrats across the state can elect one of their own as governor in 2018.
The annual Republican party fundraiser at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis drew the presence of likely or prospective contenders Mark Norris, state Senate Republican leader of Collierville, former state Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd, fellow state Senator Mark Green of Clarksville, U.S. Rep Diane Black of Gallatin and businessman Bill Lee of Franklin.
Tennessee Republican Party chairman Scott Golden said the party has a chance to go from one Republican governor to another Republican governor for the first time in Tennessee since 1869.
Since Republican Winfield Dunn of Memphis was elected governor in 1970, Tennessee voters have followed a governor from one party with a governor from the other party every time the seat is open with no incumbent seeking re-election.
“It’s not going to be easy and we have a lot of folks in the room tonight who are considering this,” Golden told those at the gala. “Tennessee is a big state and it is a great, great state to live in but it is a long state to drive. We’ve got some history still to be made.”
Barry reminded the group at The Gallery at Madison Square in Midtown that Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen was re-elected in 2006 even though the state went for Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race two years later.
“Gov. Bredesen took 95 counties,” Barry said of the re-election effort. “We can win it but not unless we work really hard. … Please don’t think that was some foregone conclusion that we can’t get a Democrat in the Governor’s office.”
Among those in the audience at the Democratic gathering was state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley who is among the Democrats considering a bid for governor.
Barry touted the importance of local races between now and 2018.
Golden specifically touted the importance of the upcoming special election for the State House District 95 seat that Eads Republican Mark Lovell resigned from this month following an allegation of sexual harassment.
“All of the complaining, all of the anti-Trump, all of the protests and anger – guess what?” Golden said. “They’ve finally got something to shoot at.”
Shelby County Commissioners will appoint an interim state representative to the seat who will likely serve through most if not all of the current legislative session. Gov. Bill Haslam will issue a writ that sets in motion a move to a special primary election and a special general election this year to fill what is expected to be about a year left in the two-year term of office.
“This is where the Democrats can make their mark and say, ‘I can prove to you that people don’t like what the Republican party is doing,’” Golden said. “Get ready for it because things happen. … They will be out in Collierville.”
Democrats gained a seat in the Shelby County legislative delegation to Nashville in the 2016 elections when Democratic challenger Dwayne Thompson unseated Republican incumbent Steve McManus in District 96 which takes in Cordova and parts of Germantown.
Democrats in Shelby County don’t have a formal Shelby County Democratic Party. The state party dissolved it in 2016 after years of dysfunction and infighting that peaked with a local executive committee split over pursuing an arrest warrant against former local party chairman Bryan Carson over financial issues.
The state party recently began the process of reconstituting the local party.