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Hilleary winning '06 Battle of the 'Burbs
Sep 23, 2005 12:00 am
September 21, 2005
The battles for the suburbs is on in the Tennessee Republican U.S. Senate primary, and former Congressman Van Hilleary appears to be winning.
Leading Republican state lawmakers in two of the three key suburban swing counties surrounding Nashville have publicly endorsed Hilleary's senate bid. And while such endorsements are often dismissed by mainstream media, they are significant to the topography of a hard, right-leaning primary fight.
Hilleary has to date won the public support of State Sens. Mae Beavers and Diane Black, two of the three state senators from suburban Nashville counties whose wins in 2002 and 2004 respectively helped turn the State Senate to a GOP majority for the first time since Reconstruction.
Beavers and Black threw their support to Hilleary in decidedly different fashions. Black made a formal declaration of her announcement while Beavers simply let it slip she would be voting for Hilleary.
It has been enough to paint the picture that two of the state's leading conservatives – voices in the anti-income tax movement – have sided with Hilleary rather than former Congressman Ed Bryant.
Bryant too is vying for the conservative high ground in his own Senate bid, and the two former Class of '94 House members have spent most of their time arguing over which one is the true conservative in the race.
Black and Beavers represent more of the grass roots of the party that has been building for a decade in places such as Wilson, Sumner and Rutherford counties. These mostly suburban, nuclear family voters are more tuned in to influences such as conservative talk radio and Internet blogs than the party traditions steeped in East Tennessee history.
However, Bryant is from West Tennessee where Hilleary has adopted Middle Tennessee as his home. Bryant will likely show up stronger in suburban Shelby County, possibly neutralizing Hilleary's obvious victories here.
Left. No! I meant Right.
Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam has been the topic of conversation lately in partisan political circles.
As a city mayor in a high-growth district, a woman and a professional, Elam is remarkably eligible to move up in the political ranks.
With her Nashville law practice and contacts beyond Wilson County, Elam's name is being mentioned in a number of capacities tied to the county's 2006 state legislative races.
The question remaining for most local political observers is Elam a Democrat or Republican?
The freshman mayor, who has a history of political giving to Democrats, said last week she is firmly "independent."
"I've voted bipartisan," Elam said. "I've voted for both parties. I also don't like it when both parties get so extreme."
Elam was active in former Davidson County Sheriff Gail Ray's Democratic primary bid for Congress and has given to former State Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jo Ann Graves. Elam also says she has given campaign contributions to Beavers and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Elam's name has been bandied about locally as a possible Democratic challenger for Beavers and Republican challenger for State Rep. Susan Lynn – neither of which are a possibility, according to Elam.
"When you get right down to it, I can't afford to be in the legislature," Elam said. "I have to work."
State Rep. Beth Harwell is expected to make some kind of formal move this week to enter the 2006 gubernatorial race.
Harwell, who backed off a potential run for U.S. Senate, is said to be waiting for an answer from Tennessee main GOP finance man and fund-raiser, Nashville businessman Ted Welch.
According to sources close to Harwell's camp, the former state Republican Party chair is waiting to see if Welch will weigh in on the fund-raising side to help Harwell in what is sure to be an uphill financial battle with Democratic incumbent Gov. Phil Bredesen.
It is unclear what Harwell's affirmative move toward the governor's race will be, though advisors are telling her to stay away from mirroring her U.S. Senate tact of launching an exploratory committee.