On Saturday the Chattanooga Times-Free Press’s Andy Sher and the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Tom Humphrey reported that the race for Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party is officially down to two after Chattanooga’s Jane Hampton-Bowen, who is said to have been a favorite of big labor, dropped out of the contest without endorsing either of the two remaining candidates. Those two candidates are Tennessee Democratic Party Treasurer Dave Garrison of Nashville, and former long-serving State Senator Roy Herron (D-Dresden). If there can said to be a rift between what we might call the “moderate” or “Old Guard” wing of the Democratic Party in Tennessee, and the party’s extreme Left, that rift appears now to be very public since former Tennessee Democratic Communications Director Wade Munday withdrew from the race and threw his support to Garrison-who is apparently now the champion of the hard Left now that Munday and Hampton-Bowen are out.
The Democrats’ internal campaign for party chair is nothing if not interesting to watch. Many of the party’s activists and online shills are declaring in various internet media that the election of Herron as Chairman would be “a disaster.” Yet Herron has been one of the more successful elected State Democrats in recent years. Had he not run for Congress, Herron would probably still be in the State Senate today. Herron is steeped in the old West Tennessee Democratic establishment, having been first elected to the General Assembly in 1986 to fill the House seat of former House Speaker Ned Ray McWherter (D-Dresden) when he was elected Governor. Indeed, much of Herron’s public service occurred when the Democratic Party was still a majority party in Tennessee, and the so-called “West Tennessee Mafia,” made up of former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington), the late Lieutenant Governor John Wilder (D-Mason), and the late Governor McWherter along with their circles in the General Assembly and in State government were at the peak of their modern political influence. The height of Herron’s political era was also the last time the Democrats saw real Statewide domination.
Knowing this, it is little wonder that Herron claims to have enough votes sown up to win when the Democrats’ State Executive Committee meets this coming Saturday to elect a new Chairman. It does make one wonder, though, about the liberal mind. If liberal Democrats truly believe that Roy Herron would be a disastrous choice for Chairman of their party, would they not characterize their present political situation as a disaster of total proportions? If not, then what exactly would constitute such a disaster? Further, if the Democrats’ present Tennessee political fortunes are not a disaster, but Herron’s election to the chair would yield a disaster, what do Democrats call their present situation?