Boyd (l) and Luttrell at endorsement ceremony
Last April, on one of his several trips to Memphis after announcing for Tennessee Governor, Randy Boyd, the state’s former Commissioner of Economic Development, spent a fair amount of time schmoozing with Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who professes to have been a fan of Boyd’s since meeting him at the Crescent Club some years and who, like Boyd, has some ancestral roots in West Tennessee’s Crockett County.
In fact, as Luttrell recalled on Wednesday in the lobby of Evolve Bank in East Memphis, where he formally endorsed Boyd, the two of them were probably the only ones in the sizeable group on hand to witness the endorsement announcement who even knew where Fruitvale, the Crockett County site of Boyd’s gubernatorial announcement, was.
All of that is by way of noting the importance assigned by Boyd, originally from Knoxville and a resident of Nashville in recent years. to West Tennessee as a source of support. “You won’t win Tennessee without winning West Tennessee,” Boyd declared flatly to a newman’s question about the importance of this end of the state to his — or anyone else’s — gubernatorial chances.
Both Boyd and Luttrell bore down heavily on the West Tennessee theme during the announcement ceremony. “It’s such a critical part of our state,” said Boyd, who described himself as a seventh generation Tennessean, the first six generations of which hailed from either Crockett County or Obion County.
“Every year we have a family reunion in West Tennessee, and 90 percent of us are right there,” said the candidate.
Luttrell, too, had laid in on pretty heavy in his introduction of Boyd. “He’s a West Tennessee boy who comes from Knoxville but whose heritage is deep in
West Tennessee.” The Mayor typified the aforesaid Fruitvale as “a Crockett County town that embodies the very essence of Tennessee values — hard work, family, education, children.” Jokingly, Luttrell looked at Boyd and said, “We’re going to run a campaign of ‘Be Like Fruitvale.’”
These dithyrambs to West Tennessee might not have been quite so pronounced, nor would Luttrell’s endorsement of Boyd been even possible, the Mayor acknowledged, had not state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, a native son from Collierville, been taken out of the field of potential GOP gubernatorial candidates as a result of his recent nomination by President Trump to a federal judgeship.
After conferring praise on Norris as a “tremendous asset to Tennessee and to Shelby County,” Luttrell said he had informed the state Senator of his intention to endorse Boyd.
Besides Luttrell, other supporters of Boyd, and members of the new media, the crowd on hand for the endorsement included the candidate’s campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, a political veteran who had served in the same capacity for the presidential campaigns of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and, most recently, the successful congressional race of current 8th District U.S. Representative David Kustoff.
Boyd fielded several questions about campaign issues, including education and crime, and he aptly summed up the currently confused state of health care legislation in Washington, when he commented, “It’s hard to speculate on speculation.”
With a Norris candidacy no longer to be reckoned with, the field of announced gubernatorial candidates includes, besides Boyd, Franklin businessman Bill Lee, state House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville, and state Senator Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet. Former Mayor Karl Dean of Nashville has announced for Governor as a Democrat, and state House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley is another likely candidate.