Bill Gibbons is running for governor in 2010, IF:
There's really only one "if" that could forestall a gubernatorial campaign by the long-term District Attorney General - and that's the likelihood of former U.S. Senator Bill Frist making a run for it.
It is no secret that Frist is thinking about a race. The former Senate Majority Leader and (for a time) presidential wannabe has said so, and he's making the kinds of speaking rounds across Tennessee that only a serious aspirant for statewide office would commit himself to.
Frist's timetable for deciding would seem to be set for late this year or early next year. In the meantime, he's the elephant in the room that other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls have to worry about. Among those others: 7th District congressman Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood; Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville; 3rd District congressman Zach Wamp of Chattanooga; and Mayor Bill Haslam of Knoxville.
Whatever course the others may take, Gibbons is explicit about one thing: "If Frist runs, I'll support him.!" But he's equally insistent that, otherwise, he's likely to be in the running. "I make no bones about it. I'm serious about this," he said at Saturday's "Bob Patterson Barbecue" event, sponsored by the Shelby County Young Republicans and held at Kirby Farms in honor of the late Trustee, who died unexpectedly early this year.
Patterson held such an event annually at the same venue, and this year's commemorative affair drew a fair number of local office-holders and candidates, just like the ones presided over by Patterson himself.
Gibbons has almost always been in attendance at those events, and the subject of his potential further political ambitions has occasionally come up in conversations. Usually, what he told questioners was some variation on the theme that he was concentrating on his current duties. That's right out of the political playbook.
No doubt he is still taking care of business, and but he's no longer reticent about wanting to move on. After service on both the Memphis city council and the Shelby County Commission, Gibbons was named in 1996 by former governor Don Sundquist to fill a vacancy in the District Attorney General's office. He has since been reelected twice.
Gibbons also served in the administration of former governor (now U.S. Senator) Lamar Alexander, and he chanced a run for Memphis mayor in 1987.
The hustings two years hence will probably be crowded, as is always the case after a two-term governorship. Democrat Phil Bredesen is now completing the second of his two terms permitted by the state constitution.
Among the possible gubernatorial candidates so far mentioned by themselves or others on the Democratic side are former 9th District congressman Harold Ford, former state House of Representatives majority leader Kim McMillan, former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell, and 4th District congressman Lincoln Davis.