State Senator Jim Kyle of Memphis seems clearly to be preparing a run for governor, joining a growing field of candidates from both parties hoping to succeed Governor Phil Bredesen, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term in 2010.
Kyle, who is the Democrats’ leader in the state Senate and was one of the attendees at the state Democratic Party’s weekend retreat in the resort community of Monteagle, sponsored a Sunday morning prayer breakfast for his partymates. Beforehand he told the Flyer that he would be making an announcement “as soon as the [legislative] session’s over.”
The nature of that announcement seemed clear enough as he expounded on his likely strategy. “I’m going to build a wall around Memphis,” said Kyle, who had previously floated trial balloons for both a gubernatorial race and one for Shelby County mayor. As he clarified his metaphor, it became obvious which way he intended to go.
“I’m going to build a wall around Memphis,” he repeated, “and then work hard on the rest of the state.” Which is a fairly definite way of saying that, with no other Democrats from Shelby County seeking the governorship, he intends to consolidate home-base support as a first step toward running statewide.
Kyle was asked: Is fellow Shelby Countian Bill Gibbons able to build a similar wall? “Nope,” he said firmly, “not with Brad Martin raising money for Bill Haslam.” Martin, a former state representative and Memphis-based entrepreneur, is one of the state’s high-stakes political players; Haslam, an oil-company scion and the mayor of Knoxville, is favored by many observers to win the GOP nomination.
Other already announced gubernatorial candidates attending the Democrats’ weekend retreat were former state House Majority Leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville, state Senator Roy Herron of Dresden, and Nashville businessman Ward Cammack. Not attending was Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, who, along with McMillan, had been in Memphis Saturday morning for the “Unity prayer breakfast” of Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, who has announced for city mayor.