In an interview before he addressed an audience of the East Shelby County Republican Party at the groups annual Master Meal at Woodland Hills Country Club Friday night, 4th District U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary shied away from loosing any broadsides at a possible general election opponent, Democrat Phil Bredesen, and gave the former Nashville mayor credit for sincerity in his recent espousal of a no-new-taxes policy toward state government.
Hilleary was somewhat more grudging in his attitude toward a GOP partymate, Governor Don Sundquist, declining to say that, if nominated, he expected the governors support in a general election contest, other than to say, I would anticipate having the support of every elected Republican in the state. Would he seek Sundquists support?, he was asked. I seek everybodys support, the congressman replied.
Ill give the governor some credit, Hilleary said. I think hes working very hard to restructure TennCare right now, and I thnk a lot of the things hes doing are thing I would do if I were in his shoesÉ.I think were moving the right direction.
But Hilleary made it clear that the twain were far from meeting on the issue of tax reform.
I think anytime theres an issue at the forefront that divides a party rather than serves to bind a party, its a problematic situation. The income tax is sometjing the vast majority of Republicans dont want anything to do with it. Theres a few that do.
Hilleary, who went on to stress education as a key issue in the interview as well as in his prepared remarks, opined that he would be extraordinarily lucky if he didnt have some primary opponent next year.
So far only former State Rep. Jim Henry of Kingston has indicated an interest in challenging Hilleary in the 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary.