Politics » Politics Feature

On the Bubble

Bill Gibbons floats a run for governor, while Lincoln Davis takes a hit.



District attorney general Bill Gibbons says he's considering a gubernatorial run in 2010, if U.S. senator Bill Frist doesn't do it.

It is no secret that Frist is thinking about a race. The former Senate majority leader and (for a time) presidential wannabe has said so, and he's making the kinds of speaking rounds across Tennessee that only a serious aspirant for statewide office would commit himself to.

Frist's timetable for deciding would seem to be set for late this year or early next year. In the meantime, he's the elephant in the room that other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls have to worry about. Besides Gibbons, those others include 7th District congressman Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville, 3rd District congressman Zach Wamp of Chattanooga, and Mayor Bill Haslam of Knoxville.

Gibbons is explicit about one thing: "If Frist runs, I'll support him!" But he's equally insistent that, otherwise, he's likely to be a candidate himself. "I'm serious about this," he said at Saturday's "Bob Patterson Barbecue" event, sponsored by the Shelby County Young Republicans and held at Kirby Farms in honor of the late trustee, who died unexpectedly early this year.

Among the possible gubernatorial candidates so far mentioned (by themselves or others) on the Democratic side are former 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr., former state House of Representatives majority leader Kim McMillan, former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell, and 4th District congressman Lincoln Davis.

Davis' prospects, however, may have been dimmed by his reluctance so far to endorse presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, along with statements made by Davis associates imputing "terrorist" connections to Obama.

Davis' chief of staff, Beecher Frasier, along with Fred Hobbs, a Democratic state committeeman, had been quoted to that effect by reporter John Rodgers in the Nashville City Paper on Friday.

Rodgers first elicited this quote from Hobbs, who is considered close to Davis: "I don't exactly approve of a lot of the things he [Obama] stands for and I'm not sure we know enough about him. He's got some bad connections, and he may be terrorist connected for all I can tell. It sounds kind of like he may be."

The City Paper article continued: "His [Davis'] chief of staff, Beecher Frasier, said he doesn't know for sure if Obama is 'terrorist connected' but he assumes he's not."

There was a resultant national furor, including, among other reactions, a public disavowal of Frasier by former 9th District congressman Ford, whose 2006 U.S. Senate campaign Frasier chaired.

Ultimately, both Hobbs and Frasier would backtrack from their statements, Hobbs insisting that he intends to vote for Obama and Frasier and saying that "nobody in his right mind" could regard Obama as connected with terrorists. But political damage may have been done to Davis in the meantime.

• Lawyer Richard Fields, accused by Mayor Willie Herenton of masterminding a blackmail plot against him last year, has been censured by the state Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility on two counts unrelated to the conspiracy charge, including one for "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice."

Fields' censure this spring was uncontested and was formalized by the board in an April 25th statement, which said in part:

"The censure was based on two complaints. In the first complaint, Mr. Fields informed the Court that he would dismiss a case but failed to do so as promised. This resulted in a show cause Order. In the same matter, he failed to inform his client that he was dismissing the case and made misrepresentations to his client about the disposition. Finally, he neglected to provide the file to his client until the disciplinary complaint was filed.

"In the second complaint, Mr. Fields neglected a case and failed to respond to his client in a regular and timely manner. Further, he failed to withdraw at the client's request and failed to provide the file to the client until the disciplinary complaint was filed."

At least one of the cases was that of a Memphis schoolteacher, Florida Garmon, who had engaged Fields to assist her in litigation against the Memphis City Schools. Garmon declined to elaborate on the particulars of the case "because I am still involved in the lawsuit."

Upholding the complaints, the board ruled against Fields in the areas of "adequate attorney-client communication" and "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice." The censure, said the board, should be regarded as "a rebuke and warning" to Fields but did not prohibit his right to practice law.

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