The Open Seat Challenge

With just under 10 days before the beginning of early voting, some of the races are really starting to heat up. Outside of the Governor’s race and the 9th District primary, the two races I’m following closest are in TN-08 and TN-06. I call these races the “Open Seat Challenge”.

Both seats were held by long-time Democrats, Bart Gordon in TN-06 and John Tanner in TN-08, who both also announced their retirements within two weeks of each other. Both districts also followed the majority of the state in voting overwhelmingly for John McCain in the 2008 Presidential election. But old habits die hard, and even though both districts are on the conservative side, its not necessarily the ideological kind of conservatism that the current GOP candidates are giving them.

There’s been some action in both races over the past few weeks, most notably on the Republican side of the TN-08 race, the “Battle of the Bona Fides. This has largely been constrained to some volleys back and forth between the Fincher and Kirkland campaigns about the true Republican bona fides of NRCC favorite Stephen Fincher. As JR reported Stephen Fincher voted in the Democratic Primary back in May, even though he’s a candidate on the Republican ticket. This caused a stir and led one Tipton County Republican to ask the state party about the issue. The state GOP wasn’t having any of it.

As of right now, no one really knows which direction the wind is blowing on the Republican side of the 8th, but there’s plenty of money to be spent between now and August 5th and the one guy I haven’t mentioned yet is spending it big time. Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn is buying more TV and going to more events than you can shake a stick at. Early on in the campaign there were those who pooh-poohed Commissioner Flinn, and he still may not have a chance in hades, but he’s making a go of it.

Which brings us to the Democratic side of the ballot. State Senator Roy Herron is running virtually unopposed. I say virtually because the other person on the ballot, Kimberlee E. Smith of Memphis hasn’t really made an appearance. If she has, no one knows about it. For all practical purposes she isn’t there. This puts Herron in the position of being able to save his cash for the general…all $1.2m of it. WPLN reports that Tanner gave Herron a tepid endorsement, but the truth of it is, competitive or not, there is still a primary of sorts on the Democratic side of the 8th, and most politicians are more willing to wait until the coast is clear before stepping out there with some full throated support.

This is likely also true of the Democratic side of TN-06. The Secretary of State’s office shows 5 candidates on the ballot, so it’s not too surprising that Bart Gordon isn’t endorsing, even though we’re not hearing a whole lot from anyone but former Marine Captain Ben Leming. Leming has scheduled some rallies across the district between now and primary day hoping to whip up support.

The Republican side of the TN-06 race is full of every fruit and nut that the TNGOP could find. I counted seven, which is about eight too many in my book. The one who’s garnered the most attention in recent weeks is Lou Ann Zelenik who has been right out in front of the whole anti “religious freedom” debate going on in Rutherford County. I don’t have a picture on this race either, but from the looks of the Republicans running, if any of them win in the general, folks in DC will finally have another Michelle Bachman type punching bag to play with.

Over the next few days as Early voting starts and disclosures start hitting the FEC, I’ll have some more info on these races, and maybe even a prediction or two. Who knows?

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