The deluge is upon us. At a geometrically increasing rate, aspirants for significant public office on the 2018 ballot are coming front and center with announcements of candidacy, kickoff events, and the like.
By the time this issue hits the streets, the previous week or so will have seen appearances in Shelby County by two major gubernatorial candidates, a new announcement for Shelby County mayor, fund-raisers for several more candidates, and continuing waves of speculation about new candidacies to come.
It was already apparent that Tennessee will have a hotly contested governor's race in both major political parties (and a couple of potshots delivered at primary opponents by Republicans Diane Black and Mae Beavers in Memphis appearances emphasized the point).
Now, with the announcement by U.S. Senator Bob Corker that he won't seek reelection next year, the number of prospective Senatorial candidates, Republican and Democrat, is beginning to proliferate as well.
It seems a certainty that Corker's seat will be sought by 7th District U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (a Republican whose district included portions of Memphis before reapportionment in 2011). Governor Bill Haslam has also hinted he may run for the Senate, and there have been serious efforts to draft philanthropist/industrialist Brad Martin, a longtime Memphis GOP eminence who once served as a state representative but has figured mainly in the donor ranks for decades.
Possible new Senate entries on the Democratic side include former state senator and current Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, who has begun to send out emails advertising his interest, and current state Senator Jeff Yarbro of Nashville. Nashville lawyer and Iraq war vet James Mackler is already a declared candidate.
Inasmuch as Tennessee Democrats have been unable even to field serious candidates in statewide races for several years, this show of interest has to be a boost to the party faithful, especially since two Democrats of note — Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House minority leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley — are declared (and active) candidates for governor.
The state's Republicans feel, with some justification, that the real races will be run in their primary ranks, and two of their hopefuls were in town during the last week — 6th District Congresswoman Black and state Senator Beavers (who resigned her seat in August to focus on her race for governor).
Black was the beneficiary of a meet-and-greet breakfast at Owen Brennan's Restaurant on Friday, and her status as a potential front-runner was signaled by the number of mainstream Republicans on hand, including longtime GOP national committeeman and former RNC general counsel John Ryder, who introduced her.
Black presented herself as a laissez-faire conservative and a believer in local options whenever possible. She also made a strong pitch for "values" as an issue and suggested that "one or two opponents," who went unnamed, had latched on to that issue in a copycat way.
One of those opponents may have been Beavers, who was the sole gubernatorial candidate to show up at a well-attended forum held at the Germantown home of John Williams on Saturday. She certainly hit the values issue hard, confirming that, as the Nashville Scene had averred, she saw Jesus as a universal answer to governmental problems. "True, but that's not all I said" was her response.
Beavers filled in some of the other blanks: opposition to Common Core, to transgenders' freedom to use bathrooms of their choice, to state aid of any kind to illegal immigrants, to medical marijuana, and to add-on taxes in general. (Meanwhile, her husband Jerry Beavers and other supporters on hand circulated in the crowd and accused other candidates, notably Black and House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville, of various insufficiencies.)