A Freshly Filed McWherter Visits Memphis on Monday as Part of State Flyover


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McWherter Talks "Tennessee Jobs" on Filing Day Last Week

McWherter at the Capitol

On Monday Shelby Countians will have a chance to take the measure of the one known quantity everybody will have a chance to vote for in the 2010 general election for Tennessee governor.

That would be Democrat Mike McWherter, a Jackson businessman and, as he will surely find the opportunity to remind his audiences, the son of former governor Ned Ray McWherter, who served two terms from 1987 to 2005.

As McWherter noted almost matter-0f-factly last Thursday in a brief speech from the steps of the Capitol after filing his papers to run, “I’m going to be the Democratic nominee.”

He will because the last remaining obstacle to his nomination, former House majority leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville, took leave of the governor’s race the day before to run instead for mayor of Clarksville. McMillan’s departure followed previous ones from state Senator Roy Herron of Dresden, Nashville businessman Ward Cammack, and state Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis.

In leaving the race, both Cammack and Kyle signaled their recognition that ultimate victory for them this year would be difficult. Herron’s departure was another matter: He dropped out to pursue a race for Congress in the 8th District following incumbent Democrat John Tanner’s announcement last year that he would not seek another term.

Since Herron’s hankering to be in Congress was a long-known fact, there were some, both in the media and among state politicos, who speculated openly that Tanner might have had some persuasion to exit, at least two years earlier than expected, from former governor McWherter, a former mentor.

Whether or not, the former governor’s presence in an inescapable component of Mike McWherter’s campaign. He is sure to be on the stump with his son from time to time, and he was referred to twice by candidate McWherter on Thursday. One mention included the phrase “a lesson my father taught me;” the other cited “an important lesson I really learned form my father growing up.”

One thing Mike McWherter might have learned was the importance in a Tennessee statewide election of appearing as down-home and locally oriented as possible.

Hence the candidate’s emphasis in his remarks Thursday on “Tennessee jobs,” in the pursuit of which he promises a tax break to those entre4preneurs and Tennesseans who create job opportunities for citizens of the state.

Hence, too, McWherter’s emphasis in a “hard times” environment on debunking the job-creation claims of Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, the well-heeled Pilot Oil scion who could well be his Republican opponent.

“Tennessee needs a governor who actually knows what you’re going through,” McWherter said, then took a shot at claims made in Haslam’s widely seen first statewide commercial.

“These are times that require more from a candidate than jugging numbers on a TV ad to inflate his accomplishments,” McWherter said. “Tennesseans will see through those tricks. They’ll take the measure of the man, and they’ll say, ‘if he’s gonna stretch the truth about jobs, then how can we trust him on this economy?’ We need a governor who has met a payroll, who knows what it’s like to provide health care benefits for the people that he works with in good times and in bad, a governor who’s created jobs, a governor from Day One knows what it will take to create more jobs.”

And, just to be on the safe side of a once and possible future issue, McWherter vowed to oppose a state income tax.

Elaborating on that latter point in a Q and A with reporters after his speech, McWherter said the state had a “consumption-based” economy and noted that three years ago, during a favorable business climate, had enough spillover revenues from the state sales tax that members of the General Assembly had been able to vote themselves surplus sums to bestow on projects in their districts.

Though his public remarks had included no references to Republican candidates other than Haslam, McWherter contended he didn’t know who the GOP nominee might be but noted that the other Republican candidates, Chattanooga congressman Zach Wamp and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville, had themselves been critical of the veracity of Haslam’s long-running first TV ad.

McWherter said that he himself would probably hold off on TV advertising until after the August primaries.

He contended that he had already visited all 95 Tennessee counties. But McWherter’s Monday flyover, during which he will touch base in all of the state’s major urban areas, may be the first good opportunity for many Tennesseans to get a sense of a candidacy which, thus far, has not been as publicly conspicuous as that of the others, Democratic or Republican.

McWherter’s Memphis-area appearance on Monday will be at the Tennessee Technology Center at 4:55 p.m. on 550 Alabama Avenue downtown.


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