Ex-Governor’s Run Gives Democrats a Bit More Hope of Retaking the Senate
WASHINGTON — Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, the last Democrat to win statewide office in Tennessee, announced on Tuesday that he would run for the seat being vacated by Senator Bob Corker, handing his party a conceivable, if extremely narrow, path back to a Senate majority in 2018.
Mr. Bredesen, a wealthy business executive and two-term governor who swept every county in the state in his 2006 re-election bid, was aggressively courted by Senate Democrats, who have been eyeing any potential openings in a year that features a forbidding map for the party.
Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats next year, 10 of them in states that President Trump won. But if Mr. Bredesen can mount a strong campaign, Tennessee would join Nevada and Arizona as states where Republican-held Senate seats could be in jeopardy. Republicans currently have a two-seat majority.
A win by Doug Jones, a Democrat, in the Alabama special election on Tuesday would provide a wider path to the majority.
Mr. Bredesen, 74, declared his candidacy with a web video that illustrated why he could prove a formidable candidate but also why he faces a bruising campaign that could prove the most expensive in state history.
“I’m running for the Senate because I have the right kind of experience and the actual track record that it will take to start working across party lines to fix the mess in Washington and bring common sense back to our government,” he said, clad in a hunting vest and sitting on a porch, a verdant expanse of lawn behind him.
Mr. Bredesen discussed his business record and trumpeted his tenure as mayor of Nashville, Tennessee’s booming capital, before recalling that he had not raised the sales tax as governor or sought to create an income tax, long a political third rail in the state.
Yet in an indication of how precarious it can be to run statewide as a Democrat in the South, he also made no mention of his party and did not refer to President Trump by name. His only allusion to the Affordable Care Act was to say that “it needs fixing.”
Tennessee Democrats faced near extinction under President Barack Obama, losing House seats they had controlled for generations and swapping near-majorities in both chambers of the state legislature for the barest of minorities.
Should Mr. Bredesen become the party’s standard-bearer, however, he will test whether the state has undergone an enduring realignment or whether a well-financed and well-known Democrat can win when there is a more favorable climate.
The race will also determine if Tennessee’s tradition of electing political moderates, whether they be Democrats or Republicans, was a reflection of a less polarized time or still holds as a lasting feature of a varied state that spans two time zones and absorbs Appalachia, the transient-rich New South and more agrarian Old South.
Even as it has shifted right in the same fashion of its Southern neighbors, Tennessee has continued to elect Republican pragmatists such as Mr. Corker, Senator Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam, who briefly considered a Senate bid.
Mr. Bredesen, himself a New York transplant, will probably face one of two conservatives: Representative Marsha Blackburn, who lives in suburban Nashville and serves a district that stretches to Memphis, or former Representative Stephen Fincher, who is from rural western Tennessee. First, though, the former governor must grapple with a primary against James Mackler, a lawyer and Army veteran. On Thursday, Tennessee Republicans voiced deep skepticism that any Democrat could win statewide there.
“The Tennessee Phil Bredesen governed is a much different Tennessee than what will welcome candidate Bredesen in 2018,” said Mark Braden, a Republican strategist in the state, which Mr. Trump carried by 26 points.
But Mr. Bredesen’s advisers believe that with Mr. Obama gone from the scene, the Democrats and independents who cast Republican ballots over the last decade will again be in play when presented with a consensus-oriented moderate.
Senate Democrats are making the same bet. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, assiduously wooed Mr. Bredesen over the phone and in person, even underwriting a poll from a Washington survey research firm to lure him into the race.
They believe that if 2018 becomes a wave election year, even red states such as Tennessee may be up for grabs.
via NYT http://nyti.ms/2gVZ2VB
December 7, 2017 at 06:12PM