Nashville Democrat Bill Freeman, a potential gubernatorial candidate, greets David Upton and Kathy Ferguson at last week's GOTV event and Lee Harris fundraiser.
As the presidential campaign comes to an end in Tennessee as elsewhere, at least local Get-Out-the-Vote event for Democrat Hillary Clinton functioned simultaneously as a prelude to the politics of 2018.
This was a fundraiser for state Senator Lee Harris last Thursday night at the Memphis residence of Linda Sowell. The event, which drew a decent-sized crowd of Democratic activists, doubled as a GOTV rally for Clinton, but it had a third purpose as well: It was a coming-out event for the likely forthcoming gubernatorial race of Bill Freeman, a Nashville Democratic eminence and one of the party’s chief donors.
Besides Harris and Freeman, a chief speaker at the event was 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, who bestowed compliments on both of the other principals — and would receive some as well. The event could accurately be described as a three-way political love-fest.
Introduced to the crowd by Harris as “our very own Congressman…the father of the Tennessee scholarship,” Cohen would say of the state Senator: “I’ve supported Lee in all his elections, except the first. When he ran against me in 2006, I was against him…..But he ran an issue-oriented campaign, and he impressed me greatly…. Lee’s a star up there [in Nashville], and is right on the issues.”
The Congressman described Harris as the “voice in the wilderness” in Nashville that Cohen thought he himself had often been as a state Senator.
An interesting sub-text of this was that Harris had flirted seriously with the idea of opposing Cohen in the 9th District primary this year before deciding against it in January.
The Congressman would also brag on Freeman, a near finalist in last year’s multi-candidate mayoral race in Nashville and a state co-chair for the Clinton campaign whose ulterior motive for being in Memphis was to scout out support for the aforesaid 2018 gubernatorial race. Cohen would say of him, “Bill Freeman might have further plans, and if he offers himself, he’ll be a fine candidate to be the head of the ship of state and do Tennessee proud and the Democratic Party proud.”
When Freeman spoke, he stroked both Memphians. He talked of how, in separate appearances at fundraising events in his Nashville home, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton made a point of asking, “Where’s Steve Cohen?” (Cohen, in Freeman’s telling, was either unavoidably in Washington or at some other event in Memphis.)
Of Harris, Freeman noted the state Senator’s status as Senate Democratic leader and said, “He has risen to the top…. There’s nobody better thought of in Nashville than Lee….The future holds great things for your state Senator. There’s no limit.”
In a summing-up for the evening, Harris mocked Republicans and said of both his special guests, Cohen and Freeman, “They don’t have talent like that on their side of the room.”