Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen made his umpteenth recent appearance before a Memphis audience Monday night at the Folks Folly restaurant on Mendenhall. There were two main differences this time: The former Nashville mayor, who for some months was cultivating local soil with a series of meet-and-greets, was well into the fund-raising stage of his campaign this time ($1,000 and up was the amount suggested for attendees) and, perhaps more importantly, Republicans were every bit as prominent as Democrats at the Folks folly affair.
Tellingly, several of those present were prominent supporters of current Republican governor Don Sundquist in the last two elections. A case in point was co-host Jim McGhee, the developer and former Airport Authority chairman, who introduced Bredesen with remarks that included a lament that sitting congressmen _ he mentioned Sundquist and former Governor Ray Blanton -- had proved a mistake in the role of chief executives for the state.
(One edge of that blade swiped at the leading Republican candidate, 4th district congressman Van Hilleary.)
Another longtime local Republican, industrialist Jim Fri, said he distrusted Hillearys adamant stand against the income tax and, even though Bredesen has also shied away from espousing such a tax, said, I trust Jim McGhee on this.
A prominent former aide of Sundquists, AutoZone executive Ray Pohlmann, was also in attendance.
Of course, Democrats were on hand, too _ including Shelby County party chairman Gale Jones Carson, former chairman Sidney Chism, current county mayor candidate A C Wharton, and hotelier Pace Cooper.
But the emphasis was on the Republicans and independents present, a fact underscored by the candidate himself, who noted the political diversity of the room and referred to those present as a cross section of the Memphis community.
In a reference to last weeks flap concerning the fundraiser that Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams hosted for him at Adelphia Coliseum, Bredesen, quipped that he had discovered maybe seven people in the state who were upset about the financial package he helped prepare (along with Sundquist) to entice the NFL contender to Nashville. If the Titans matter became an issue, Bredesen said, Ill be all right.