Why Everyone Is Running for Governor of Tennessee

It looks like the Tennessee governor's race is about to get wild. Here's what the Memphis Commercial Appeal said in an editorial: Who ...
by | January 6, 2009
 

It looks like the Tennessee governor's race is about to get wild. Here's what the Memphis Commercial Appeal said in an editorial:

Who knows whether former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist would be a good governor of Tennessee?

One potential benefit of his decision not to run for the office in 2010 is the likelihood of a competitive Republican primary.

Already in the GOP hunt are Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga, who are expected to be joined today by Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, later by state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville, and, possibly, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood.

Since they wrote that, Haslam has already jumped in. The potential Democratic contenders aren't declaring yet, but there's a big crop considering the race, as the Commercial Appeal pointed out in that same editorial:

With Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen prohibited from running for a third term, Democratic mentionables include former state House Majority Leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis of Pall Mall, state Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga and former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis.

Why are so many politicians thinking about running for governor in Tennessee? The answer is that there's not much else to run for.

Tennessee is one of three states where the only independently elected statewide official is the governor (the others are New Jersey and Hawaii). Tennessee has three other constitutional officers, the secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer, but, in a very peculiar system, all three are picked by the legislature.

The practical effect: Ambitious local officials or state legislators have nothing to run for except Congress or governor. And, honestly, who would really want to serve in Congress?

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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