As is always the case at a national major party convention, would-be office-holders or office-holders angling for a promotion by the voters are much in evidence. Among the Democrats in Denver were 4th District representative Lincoln Davis and former state House majority leader Kim McMillan, both known to be looking at running for governor in 2010.
Add another possible gubernatorial prospect, state Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, who hopes to be lieutenant governor first by winning control of the Senate — now knotted up 16-16-1 — in this year's election.
And current Shelby County Democratic chairman Keith Norman, a delegate, allowed as how he might be interested in running for mayor in 2011.
Several Republicans in Minneapolis-St. Paul this week were nursing and promoting electoral ambitions. State senator Mark Norris and district attorney general Bill Gibbons, both Shelby Countians, floated their gubernatorial balloons, though former U.S. senator Bill Frist, who made a cameo appearance at the Tennessee delegation's luncheon on Tuesday and will speak to the convention later this week, is the 800-pound gorilla whose entrance would chase all other mainstream Republicans out.
Kemp Conrad, one of the four candidates on the November ballot for the District 9, Position 1, seat that Scott McCormick is vacating, was a delegate to the GOP convention and did not neglect to press the flesh for his candidacy.
• The real sleeper among politicians on the move, however, might be Governor Phil Bredesen, who held one gala party for Tennesseans in Denver (as did former congressman Harold Ford Jr., now head of the right/centrist Democratic Leadership Council) and had a major role in two luncheons as either host or featured speaker.
During an interview at his party for delegates at Denver's Hyatt Grand Hotel last week, Bredesen allowed as how he had considered running for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2006 but eventually deferred to Ford and ran for reelection instead. He thought again about a race this year for the Senate seat now held by Republican Lamar Alexander. Actually, he said, he had been the object of "a full court press" to do so from Senator majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
"I finally decided that I wasn't sure I'd be comfortable in the job," Bredesen said. The governor entertained no doubt whatever that he could have beaten Alexander had he run. "Oh yes, sure," he said.
Bredesen had been among those speculated on as a possible Democratic vice-presidential choice during the last year and had earlier on been mentioned by The New Republic as a possible long-shot presidential contender. During the nip-and-tuck late phase of this year's Democratic primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Bredesen sought and got serious attention from the mainstream media when he floated a variety of proposals for breaking the stalemate.
Bredesen was asked if his loss to Republican Don Sundquist during his first run for the governorship in 1994 might have been a blessing in disguise, given that Sundquist faced a plethora of long-simmering financial problems during his tenure while Bredesen, then mayor of Nashville, enhanced his political image by landing the NFL Titans and achieving other well-publicized successes.
"No," he said. That defeat upset his timetable and kept him from laying an early base for what he described as "national" ventures. Pressed on the matter, he acknowledged having nursed thoughts of a presidential run and, in the almost off-handedly self-confident manner that Bredesen-watchers are familiar with, nodded "yes" when asked if he thought he could step into such a role.
What does come next for the governor when, restricted to two terms by the state constitution, he has to leave office in January of 2011? "Well, I often think of my father going to his office and taking care of his business at the age of 90, and I can see myself doing something like that. I'm going to stay active, that's for sure."
• The once crowded race for the District 9 special election for City Council shook down last week to one of Conrad vs. IBEW business manager Paul Shaffer. There's something of a Republican vs. Democrat cast to that pairing. Former county commissioner John Willingham and FedEx employee Arnett Montague, also running, are not regarded as competitive.
The withdrawal of Mary Wilder hit with something of a shock, given the fact of a previous withdrawal by Regina Newman. So, too, was a dropout from Antonio "2-Shay" Parkinson, a better-known African-American candidate than Montague.