The now-you-see-them- now-you-don't list of possible Democratic opponents to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander expanded over the weekend, as former state party chairman Bob Tuke of Nashville re-entered this year's race, but Republican Alexander was riding high on a wave of endorsements from prominent Democrats, including local mayors Willie Herenton and A C Wharton.
Lawyer Tuke's reversal of an earlier decision not to run increased the number of Democratic hopefuls to four - the other candidates being former Knox County clerk Mike Padgett, ex-Nashville mayoral candidate Kenneth Eaton and former Green Party candidate Chris Lugo.
But Alexander, who has previously reported healthy fundraising totals, seems to be rich in crossover support, as well. He has been able to claim an impressive list of Democratic and independent state endorsees.
Besides Memphis mayor Herenton and Shelby County mayor Wharton, the supporters listed in a weekend news release by the senator also included former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris; state Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis; former state attorney general Paul Summers; and Jim Hall of Chattanooga, who was an aide to former Gov. Ned McWherter and chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in the Clinton administration.
As recently as the weekend, when University of Tennessee graduate Hall was in Memphis for the UT-University of Memphis basketball game, he explained his decision this way: "We don't have a candidate." Hall's statement reflects what has been a widespread sentiment among state Democrats. It remains to be seen how Tuke's entry will affect such thinking.
Mayors Herenton and Wharton had been included on a previous list of Alexander supporters, as had influential Democratic state senator Doug Henry of Nashville.