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UPDATE: The Flyer has learned that state Representative Beth Harwell will announce the suspension of her candidacy for the U.S. Senate as of Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. According to a source, Harwell is still actively considering making a transition to a gubernatorial race for next year.

Following is a press release just in (noon Tuesday):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 7, 2005

The following is a statement from State Representative Beth Harwell (R-Nashville):

"Today I am announcing that my exploratory committee for the United States Senate has been suspended. We have been pleased with the level of financial and political support the committee has received, but at the end of the day my family and I have determined that this is not the race for us. We have quality Republican candidates running for the Senate, and I am convinced one of them will be our next United States Senator.

Many good people have put their faith in me, and I want them to know how much I appreciate their prayers and support. They should also know that I am honoring their friendship by returning any contribution that they may have made to our exploratory committee.

It has been a gratifying experience to travel across the state learning about the concerns of everyday Tennesseans, and I have been reminded daily how truly blessed we are to live in the greatest state in the nation."

STILL KICKING

Citing a months’-old poll of her own that shows her six percentage points ahead of U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., in the Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate, state Senator Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville declined Saturday to “ speak ill of my opponent.” But she went on to take a subtle dig at Ford, telling a meeting of the Germantown Democrats, “ I really can’t look into his heart and say why he voted on things.”

Kurita went on: “I do observe that there seems to be a little ‘this’ and a little ‘that.’ With me you get ‘this.’ I’m going to be there and show up for the important votes every time. Every time.” With a few deft brush strokes, thus, she managed to remind her listeners of (a) Ford’s votes for recent energy and bankruptcy measures (both of which she stated her opposition to, referring to the latter bill as “a travesty”); (b) what some Democrats consider the congressman’s political ambivalence; and (c) his widely noted absence from last spring’s vote on President Bush’s budget.

Of the bankruptcy bill, Kurita observed, “The credit card companies wrote that bill, just like the oil companies wrote the energy policy.”

Ford was not the only target of Kurita’s commentary In defending her reluctance, some years back, to support a state income tax, Kurita [cut also] expressed criticism of its chief proponent, former Republican governor Don Sundquist, who “couldn’t run anything” and whose administration was “incredibly incompetent.”

And of Tennessee Justice Center head Gordon Bonnyman, whose litigation has been blamed by current Democratic governor Phil Bredesen for forcing cuts in state TennCare rolls, Kurita said, “God bless him. Gordon’s going to heaven. But in the meantime, everybody’s losing everything, and that’s what’s wrong.”

Nor did President Bush escape the candidate’s lash. Commenting on both failed relief efforts in New Orleans and the increasing demands of the Iraq war, , Kurita said rhetorically, “Where was the National Guard? We know where the National Guard was.” Military personnel are “going out every single day” from the Ft. Campbell Army base which adjoins her district, she said.

Kurita’s appearance here was in the wake of recent reorts that her campaign was suffering both financially and via the loss of support staff. In an interview afterward, she discounted both matters, noting that she had brought three staffers to the meeting with her and expressing optimism that a series of fund-raising Internet ads she has begun with keep her campaign viable.

Even as local attention focused last week on Hurricane Katrina and the city’s response to it, political gossip about prospective candidates for two seats -- one sure to be open next year and another likely to be – simmered on the back burner.

DISTRICT 97, STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES : Tre Hargett, of Bartlett the incumbent, who has been serving as House Republican leader, resigned last month to accept a job as chief legislative lobbyist for the Pfizer pharmaceutical chain. At least three Republicans are rumored to be interested in competing for the seat: Bartlett alderman Mike Morris; broadcaster Austin Farley; and teacher Jim Coley.

Other names are expected to be tossed into the hat, from Democrats as well as Republicans.

DISTRICT 3, SHELBY COUNTY COMMISSION: In a development no less shocking for being widely rumored beforehand, incumbent Michael Hooks Sr., the current commission chairman, was indicted last week in connection with the Tennessee Waltz scandal.

While there is no word as yet on whether Hooks intends to try to hold on to his seat, former interim state senator Sidney Chism is considered a likely replacement should the commission be called upon to designate an interim successor.

Last week’s rejection by the state Democratic Party executive committee of state Rep. Henri Brooks’ primary-election appeal means that Ophelia Ford will go forward as the Democratic nominee – and favorite – against Republican Terry Roland and independent Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges on the special general election ballot for state Senate, District 29, on September 15.

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