Term-limited Gov.Don Sundquist (R) wraps up a rocky tenure in which he fought his own party and has tried many times to institute a statewide income tax. Sundquist s actions upset many Tennessee Republicans and gave early momentum to conservative Rep. Van Hilleary (R)in his quest to replace him. Hilleary is a popular lawmaker who came to Congress with Republican Tennessee Reps. Ed Bryant and Zach Wamp, as well as Sen. Bill Frist in the class of 94.
Hilleary s chief challenger is Jim Henry (R),a former State House Minority Leader and former state party Chairman. Henry has an ideological base among the moderate Republicans cut from the Lamar Alexander and Sundquist cloth, and a geographical base of central Tennessee. In fact, when Alexander announced his preference for Henry last week, it was Hilleary who went around touting the fact with a press release headlined Sundquist Seeks Third Term! Hilleary is confident enough in his lead that he refused to debate Henry
The income tax issue is also prevalent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Nashville s former Mayor Phil Bredensen (D)is unique among the Democratic front-runners in that he has announced firm opposition to an income tax. Knox County District Attorney Randy Nichols (D)and former Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Smith (D)both express openness to the tax. Bredensen is popular in Nashville, which is a major Democratic base, and he ran a close race against Sundquist in 1994,giving him high name recogni- tion
The battle between Rep.Bryant and former Gov.Alexander has aroused resentment and anger in the Tennessee GOP, After the surprising announcement by Sen. Fred Thompson (R)that he would retire, Bryant entered as the underdog and the conservative alternative to Lamar.
But Lamar s name recognition and general good standing with the state s voters made it tough for Bryant to control the entire conservative base. Also, many party leaders back Alexander because they think he has a better chance in November against Rep. Bob Clement (D).
Bryant has made an impressive comeback, and a recent poll he commis- sioned showed him down 49 to 37 percent, much closer than earlier counts. His fundraising has been impressive,and his backers in Tennessee and Washington have been aggressive. Bryant, like Hilleary, happily publicized Sundquist s backing of Alexander.
Thompson s late decision may have doomed Bryant, however. The four-month primary did not provide Bryant a chance to develop a big enough name outside of the district, while Lamar has universal name recognition in the state.
Bryant s best hope is for a very low turnout, but early voting is high, which favors Alexander. This race will be closer than earlier expected, but Bryant needed a few more weeks to overcome Alexander and his towering fame.
House of Representatives:Tennessee-4:
A recent poll showed both parties have primaries that are well within the margin of error in this district left vacant by Hilleary s run for governor.
Tullahoma Alderman and former Hilleary aide Janice Bowling (R)is neck- and-neck with former Safety Department Commissioner Mike Greene (R).Neither has very high name recognition and most voters are undecided. This race, more than most, will come down to who has the best primary day ground team. Bowling has more grass-roots connections in the district and so has a very slight edge.
Recent attacks by the laggard candidates on Greene for his Sundquist connections also boost Bowling.
. Whichever Republican wins will face an uphill climb against the winner of the Fran Marcum (D)v. Lincoln Davis (D)primary. Davis is a State Senator, a former state Rep. and ran for the House in 84 and 94.This gives him a small advantage over Marcum,a well-known businesswoman. Marcum s TV spots have been stronger than Davis,which will make the race very tight.
House of Representatives: Tennessee-5:
Democrats are nearly certain to retain this seat, which Clement has held for 16 years. Former Congressman Jim Cooper, Davidson coun- ty Sheriff Gayle Ray and State House Assistant Majority Leader John Arriola lead a 6-candidate Democratic primary field.
Ray has the backing of EMILY s list and has actually called on the femi- nist organization to ease up on their attacks on Cooper. Negative cam- paigns do not draw out primary voters, and low interest in the up-ballot Democratic primaries could keep turnout low in this district on a rare Thursday primary.The low turnout will help Cooper,who has run an excellent media campaign.
House of Representatives: Tennessee-7:
State Sens.Marsha Blackburn (R)and Mark Norris (R)together with GOP activist David Kustoff (R)lead the Republican pack for Ed Bryant s seat, which probably will stay in Republican hands.
While Norris has more cash, Blackburn is the only Nashville-area candi- date and the only woman in the race --two big advantages in a seven-way primary. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth is backing Blackburn, as are some other D.C.-based groups.