Dec 06, 2017
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen is entering the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
According to multiple sources, Bredesen began calling major donors this afternoon to confirm that he is in the race. He has been mum about a campaign since U.S. Sen. Bob Corker announced he would step down next year, only acknowledging that he was contemplating a run. A formal announcement of his intent to run has not yet been made.
Bredesen was elected governor in 2002 and served through 2010. He was the mayor of Metro Nashville from 1991 to 1999. His entrance in the Senate race means there will be a contested primary next August, something attorney and political newcomer James Mackler was hoping to avoid. However, it's possible a competitive primary could spur interest in the race from Democrats who have been used to having a slate of candidates on statewide ballots that range from bad to abysmal in recent years. And along with a possibly competitive governor's race and a national atmosphere predicted to be like 2006 and 2010 — as far as flipping seats — Bredesen's entrance should make for a very interesting race indeed.
The winner of the Democratic primary is likely to face either U.S Rep. Marsha Blackburn or former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher. Memphis physician Rolando Toyos is also in the race, as is perennial candidate Larry Crim. Bredesen is thought by many to be the Democrat who can best compete financially with Blackburn or Fincher, who both started their campaigns with around $3 million on hand.
Mackler's campaign, despite having raised less than $1 million at last filing, disputes this, saying a younger candidate without corporate ties will be more appealing to voters sick of legacy politicians. Mackler is 44; Bredesen is 74. A similar, somewhat smaller age gap exists between Fincher and Blackburn.
Bredesen has not faced a seriously competitive race since 2002, when he narrowly beat out Republican Van Hilleary for governor, and the campaign landscape has changed dramatically even since his last race in 2006. But enough money can presumably buy campaign staff who understand social media and the fast pace of the Twitter news cycle.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has also been weighing a run for Senate, but Bredesen's entrance will almost certainly have him cooling his heels until 2020.
Bredesen has not yet filed with the FEC to raise funds. A formal campaign announcement is expected in a matter of days.