VOL. 132 | NO. 210 | Monday, October 23, 2017
Republican Contenders for Governor Acknowledge Memphis Differences
By Bill Dries
The red Farmall tractor that Republican contender for governor Bill Lee drove through 30 counties in a 758-mile journey from Mountain City to Memphis at 24 mph was pretty comfortable as tractors with cabs go.
Republican contender for Governor Bill Lee pulled into a Millington shopping center Friday, Oct. 20, at the end of a Mountain City to Memphis tractor ride Lee undertook at the outset of a busy six-way GOP primary for Governor. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
“It wasn’t terribly comfortable,” Lee, a Williamson County cattle farmer and construction business owner, told about a dozen people Friday, Oct. 20, shortly after he ended the cross-state journey in a Millington shopping center. “But it wasn’t bad.”
The Mountain City-to-Memphis route is what might be called a Republican article of faith when it comes to campaigning.
Lamar Alexander made it in his successful campaign for governor in 1978, four years after an unsuccessful run for governor.
Almost 40 years later, the method and means varies from candidate to candidate but it is in use, and just as Alexander did in 1978, it is being used in the Republican primary campaign.
Randy Boyd is running from Mountain City to Memphis. And former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher traveled by more conventional means in a Mountain City-to-Memphis “listening tour” to determine if he should run for the U.S. Senate seat Bob Corker is giving up.
The journeys are an introduction of candidates to voters in a state and that is both diverse and geographically torturous to travel.
Lee told supporters and the undecideds in Millington that he chose a tractor to highlight the economic challenges in parts of rural Tennessee.
“We are at risk of losing a way of life in rural Tennessee,” he told the group at Olympic Steak and Pizza.
Amid stops at farmer co-ops, farms, a dairy farm and food banks, Lee also put out a list of commitments to Memphis and Shelby County starting with an understanding that Memphis and Shelby County are different than any other part of the state.
“It’s a recognition that it is a significant piece of how we make Tennessee a leader in the country,” Lee said after the meeting. “If we want Tennessee to lead the nation, we need Shelby County and Memphis to have an accelerated transformation. We need this part of the state to be as successful as possible, which means that it needs to have the focus and priority that it should have.”
There is no West Tennessee contender in the Republican primary for governor. State Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville exited the race following his nomination as a federal court judge by President Donald Trump.
Republican politicos in Memphis and the surrounding area with experience in statewide campaigns are pressing for assurances from the pack that they will remember where Memphis and Shelby County are once the votes are counted.
It is something those working behind the scenes have talked about a lot as they make their commitments on who to work for ahead of the election, because no candidate of any substance is going to deny the uniqueness of any part of the state or deny that it is essential to their bid for office, especially when they are physically in that part of the state.
U.S. Rep. Diane Black, another Republican contender for governor, made the same distinction about Shelby County as she campaigned earlier this month at Tiger Lane tailgating in advance of the University of Memphis-Navy football game. She sported Tigers blue.
“There are some things that are very specific geographically and then there are other issues that you can start to see tied together from one end of the state to the other,” Black said. “Some are very unique and some are uniquely the same across the state.”