Jim Henry admits hes playing catch-up in his race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination versus Van Hilleary, but he says, If we do in the next six weeks what weve done n the last six weeks, this race will be even.
What hes done is raised a little money here and there Ð an estimated $75,000 from a visit to Memphis on Thursday, and similar amounts maybe in Nashville and Chattanooga Ð but he still wont say what hes raised overall and wont until hes required to. About Hilleary, who had to disclose year-end receipts at the end of January and did so, to the tune of some $2 million, Henry says, You know how he was doing voluntary disclosures all the way through the end of last year? Well, he hasnt done any since then. Ð the clear implication being that he (Henry) is moving and Hilleary isnt.
The former House Republican leader and state GOP chairman from Kingston had the first billboards up in the middle of last year, and now, says Henry, hes first out of the box with TV and radio media, too.
Before a group of contributors in Memphis Henry unveiled his new ads, which will run statewide starting on Monday and, in an echo of his earlier slogan Smart,Qualified, Electable, stress the themes of conciliation , know-how, and of being ready from Day one -- clear shots at Hilleary, the five-term 4th district congressman who in recent weeks has twisted his tongue and gotten frustrated a time or two, most recently in Blountville over the issue of whether he owed the public or the media an explanation of how hed handle the continuing state revenue crisis.
Henry makes a pass at sounding gracious about Hillearys discomfiture, saying, Well, Im sure he didnt meant that. He was tired, or maybe he was reacting to the tone of the media person questioning him.
The erstwhile Lamar Alexander protégé concedes privately that theres a little bit of dovetailing between his support and that of Senate candidate Alexander, though he claims to have the backing of some of 7th District congressman Ed Bryants people, too.
What he doesnt claim is what many people -- specifically including Hilleary -- believe, that he has Governor Don Sundquists de facto support. We havent asked the governor for an endorsement, Henry says, and then makes the startling declaration that Hilleary has. Hes gone to see him three times in the last year asking for an endorsement, Henry asserts confidently, not saying where he gets his information, though, from the sound of it, it would almost have to come from Sundquist himself.
The claim, which Henry had made a point of vending in a Thursday afternoon visit to Legislative Plaza, is almost certain to draw a rejoinder fromHilleary-- the same Hilleary who always spends much of his time on the stump dissing the governor with the Income tax albatross around his neck (though not by name).
What Henry clearly wants to avoid is being bracketed too publicly with Sundquist and Alexander, but he plainly wouldnt mind reaping the benefits of the association. Henry expresses confidence that the extra turnout that will happen on August 1st because of the heated Senate race will benefit him and not Hilleary, but he has to be wondering, which way the Young Turk volatility of the Bryant rebellion will boil.
For better or for worse, there will be some kind of linkage between the recently dormant gubernatorial race and the newly explosive one for the Senate. He-- and we-- will likely find out what it is soon enough-- over the next six weeks, say..