Three days after Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HA) announced he was resigning to run for governor full-time and less than two weeks after Rep. John Tanner (D-TN) said he was stepping down after 21 years in Congress, Tanner’s fellow Tennessee Democrat Bart Gordon announced that he, too, was stepping down from the House after 26 years.
Within hours, Republican Van Hilleary’s prophecy to HUMAN EVENTS (who represented the neighboring 4th District in Congress from 1994-2002), appeared to be coming true: that if Gordon ever opted not to run, Republicans who were already gunning for his 6th District (suburban Nashville), would have the advantage in an open seat.
Self-made millionaire and former Rutherford County GOP Chairman LouAnn Zelenik, who had planned to run regardless of what Gordon did, now finds herself in a primary. State Sen. Jim Tracy of Murfeesboro signaled he would also seek the GOP nomination. Both Zelenik and Tracy are considered strong conservatives.
Surprisingly, no heavyweight Democrat has emerged as a major contender so far.
“My guess is that the Democrats in the 6th District will line up behind someone early on and the likely nominee will become obvious,” Hilleary told me, “And that has to do with the fact Republicans have done so well in legislative races that a number of the folks who were in the legislature and would have been strong congressional candidates have been defeated already.”
That the vacuum of Democratic talent is more than a little shocking in the 6th. Although redistricting has changed the makeup of the district over the years, this is the district that Al Gore held from 1978-84, just before he went to the Senate and the seat was won by close family friend and former Democratic State Chairman Gordon. Gore’s father Albert Gore, Sr. held the district from 1938-52, before he began his eighteen-year career in the Senate.
So far, there are no signs that the former vice president’s son, Albert Gore, III, or any of the three daughters of Al and Tipper Gore, are interested in maintaining the family tradition — not in the 6th District and not in 2010, at least.
A footnote: in terms of national politics, the Gordon exodus is not good news for Democrats. The Tennessean is the fifth House Democrat in four weeks to say he is either resigning or not running again. In each of the districts in which a Democrat is retiring, Republicans have emerged as the favorite or at least even money to pick up the district. So, as it was when Tanner, Reps. Brian Baird (WA) and Dennis Moore (KA) said no to another campaign and then Abercrombie announced his resignation, the big question is: “Which Democrat is next?”