Three out of four of Shelby County’s major Republican hopefuls in the 7th District congressional race now have their hats in the ring -- lawyer David Kustoff, businessman/city councilman Brent Taylor, and lawyer/legislator Mark Norris.

On the very eve of Thursday’s filing deadline, one other prospect, plastic surgeon Phil Langsdon, the former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, decided Wednesday -- albeit reluctantly -- not to add his hat to the max.

Taylor, who conducted a two-day bus tour of the district last week, had been the first to announce. He was followed by the others in rapid succession. Kustoff’s announcement said in part: "President Bush needs a congressman from the seventh district he can count on to support his efforts to fight terrorism, reduce the tax burden on working families, create jobs and improve the quality of public education.”

As the Memphis lawyer’s release noted, Kustoff headed up the 2000 Bush campaign in Tennessee and is largely credited for the current president’s victory here -- one which propelled him into office.

Norris’ announcement said in part: "I believe my experience in state and local government, as a community volunteer, and the fact that my family and I actively farm in Shelby County, equips me to represent the people of the 7th District well. Congressman [Ed] Bryant‘s successor must be able to represent our President and the people of Tennessee in a meaningful way. It would be my honor to do so.”

Norris, a former Shelby County Commissioner, has been a member of the state Senate from outer Shelby County (and portions of Lauderdale, Tipton, and Fayette counties) since his election in 2000.

Langson, who chaired the local party during its years of greatest dominance in the late 90s, said in part: “After a careful review of my support, fundraising commitments, and recent poll results it appears that I am well positioned to win the 7th District US House of Representative seat. However, because of my young family, my wife and I don1t believe this is the time for me to leave home to serve in elective office.”

Each of the Shelby Countians must reckon with candidates from elsewhere in the newly configured 7th district, notably state Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Williamson County in Nashville’s environs.

At least one Shelby County Democrat, Drew Pritt, has said he will file to run for the seat which incumbent Bryant is vacating to run for the U.S. Senate. Pritt has worked in several local campaigns and recently was part of a winning effort in a lieutenant governor’s race in Illinois.

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