The Grapes Go Sour: The 6th District’s Gordon Becomes the Latest Democrat to Bail from a Congressional Seat



Rep. Bart Gordon
  • Rep. Bart Gordon
Not two weeks after-his 8th District colleague John Tanner opted to spend more time with his family (the standard euphemism these days for a decision to leave politics or not run for reelection), U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon of Murfreesboro, congressman for the state’s 6th District, has done the same, citing responsibilities to his 83-year-old mother and his eight-year-old daughter, among other reasons.

What it comes down to, stripped of all euphemisms and rationalization, is that Tennessee’s Democrats, one year after taking a licking in legislative races and becoming the minority party in both houses of the General Assembly, are abandoning ship at the congressional level, too — not even waiting for the 2010 census, after which the state GOP will presumably have a free hand in redistricting.

State Senator Roy Herron of Union City, who switched from the governor’s race to the one for the 8th congressional district after Tanner’s surprise withdrawal, is expected to run competitively against whatever Republican wins the 8th District primary. It is still too early to gauge if a Democrat of equal capability chooses to contest the 6th, where several Republicans are running or are about to.

The Democrats have held a 5-4 advantage in the state’s nine congressional districts. Two of these seats are now at obvious risk. A third, the 4th, is held by Lincoln Davis, a Blue dog Democrat (like Tanner and Gordon) who can also expect a stiff race in 2010 and perhaps a stiffer one afterward.

The 9th District seat now held by Steve Cohen is safely Democratic, though Cohen himself will apparently be challenged in the primary by former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton. The 5th District, encompassing Nashville, is held by Jim Cooper, a Democrat who faces constant criticism from the Democratic left (as did Tanner) for being too conservative in his voting. He may end up facing both a primary and a general-election challenge in 2010.

The Chattanooga-based 3rd District seat, which was Democratic until Zach Wamp won it in 1994, will evidently go by default to one of two Republicans, Robin Smith or Chuck Fleischmann, in 2010, as both declared Democratic candidates for the seat had undeclared by last week.

Some Democrats — especially in the blogging fraternity — have reacted to the withdrawals of Tanner and Gordon by saying, in effect, Good riddance, these weren’t real red-blooded Democrats anyhow.

That, of course, is almost a textbook recreation of the parable of the fox unable to claim grapes hanging high over his head. Sour Grapes is the name of that story. And there’s no denying that, electorally speaking, the grapes have turned very, very sour indeed for Tennessee Democrats.

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