TN GOP Poised to Make Big Gains
The announcements last week from sitting Democratic Congressmen, John Tanner and Bart Gordon, that they will retire and not seek reelection in 2010 have sent shockwaves around the Democrat world, at least in Tennessee and at Democrat National Congressional offices. Rumors had been circling for several weeks that Congressman Tanner might be in for a NATO job and even though he hasn’t confirmed that, it wouldn’t surprise me if he does get an offer like that. He has been an officer in the Tennessee National Guard forever, has been involved in House military committees and in general is a hawk when it comes to national defense. Former GOP Congressman Robin Beard left Congress for a cushy NATO job and then spent years as a lobbyist for defense contractors. Tanner could follow a similar course if inclined.
Congressman Gordon’s announcement came as more of a surprise. In fact, I had dinner with him in New York City just last Sunday evening and there was no hint of retirement. To the contrary, we talked about his campaign and his opponents and their strengths and weaknesses. He didn’t sound like a man on the verge of retirment. I also talked with him this week following his announcement and he said turning 60 made him ponder his future, especially since he has an 8-year old child and a wife who has a very demanding job. Believe me, I understand what raising an 8-year old in your 60’s does to your energy! I also suspect that polls supposedly taken by the RNCC and DNC showing that Bart could be vulnerable in 2010 could have had something to do with his decision. At any rate, I wish he and Congressman Tanner well in their retirement from Congress. It’s a tough job and they have both been there a long time.
Which now opens up two Congressional districts that were solid for John McCain in the presidential race last year. There is little question that Bart’s district, which comprises Rutherford, Wilson, Putnam, etc. will elect a Republican to Congress. It’s just a matter of which one comes out of the primary. Several big name Republicans are being mentioned and have declared- State Senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville and State Senator Diane Black of Gallatin. Neither are up for reelection in 2010 so they are safe and can run with no loss of their Senate seat. There is already one Republican female candidate from Murfreesboro who has been raising money for the past few months. Black and Tracy will be formidable opponents, but one of them should win the seat in November.
Tanner’s seat is a little tougher because of the rural West Tennessee Democrat population and perception of strength there. It encompasses upper west Tennessee counties like Obion, Dyer and Weakley and also includes more populous Madison County of which Jackson is the county seat. Republicans have a candidate from Frog Pond, TN, (really, that’s the name) who is a farmer and a gospel singer. He’s raised $600K already when he thought Tanner was running for reelection. State Senator Roy Herron of Weakley County abandoned the Governor’s race to jump into an open seat race for Congress. Smart move since he most likely wasn’t going to win the primary for Governor. This district voted for McCain as well but Democrats have had strong representation in Congress forever and it will not be easy to wrest this away from them.
If the Republicans pick up two open seats, and hold the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 7th, that would give them a 6-3 advantage in the U.S. House AND redistricting will occur after the 2010 elections, with Republicans likely in charge of that. This is what the Republicans in Tennessee have been waiting for— 2 US Senators, a majority or more in the House, a likely Republican Governor and control of both houses in the Tennessee legislature. It “just don’t get much better than that” if you’re a Republican in Tennessee.