It has not been very pretty for the Governor lately.
First, Bredesen went out of the state to campaign for Obama in Ohio.
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen will campaign for Senator Barack Obama at a series of events across Southeast Ohio on Thursday and Friday, emphasizing Barack's commitment to the struggles of ordinary people, in light of the recent revelation that John McCain can't remember how many homes he owns.
Meanwhile, news began to break about unwarranted background searches by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. As the story continued to unravel, Bredesen's political opponents (including House Democratic Leader Gary Odom and the Tennessee Republican Party's Bill Hobbs) called for a full investigation. Some cynics even referred to this as Bredesen's Watergate.
Bredesen, who had promised to clean up the Tennessee Highway Patrol, was embarrassed by the series of background checks against members of the Tennessee press, Republican donors, and others. While there was plausible deniability that Bredesen was involved in the background checks, the situation was politically unfortunate for Bredesen, whose name was being floated at the time as a possible VP candidate. The news broke just days before the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Bredesen was a superdelegate. (Bredesen remained uncommitted during the primaries and didn't endorse until June 4th, according to DemConWatch's superdelegate tracker).
Then, after the convention, Bredesen took heat for telling the Obama campaign Thanks, but no thanks on campaign staff and assistance in local Tennessee organizing.
Frozen by lingering resentment from Obama campaign staff, a contentious primary between Sen. Rosalind Kurita and Tim Barnes (Barnes was selected as the Democratic nominee after narrowly losing the primary to Kurita amid outrage that Republicans helped create chaos by supporting Kurita), and a growing budget deficit, Bredesen's political capital was diminished in the 2008 general election campaign. While Bredesen did some radio ads and robocalls for Democratic state candidates, his direct involvement in campaign events was limited. Members of the state Democratic caucus were frustrated by Bredesen's perceived distance in 2008 state elections, as Republicans took the majority in both houses of the legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. Most disturbing was the lack of political support from Bredesen after he successfully won all 95 counties in the 2006 gubernatorial election.
After the election loss, word began to leak out of the Tennessee Democratic Party that key members of the party were left out of campaign strategy sessions. Bredesen, along with other party insiders and lobbyists, met privately to set the campaign agenda while Obama campaign staff, Executive Committee members, and others were given the cold shoulder. Finger-pointing quickly turned into defensiveness, as long-time Clinton-Gore loyalists attacked Obama supporters for putting energy outside the state (volunteering in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina) while Obama campaign activists blamed party insiders for refusing to believe that a black man could garner support in rural and suburban Tennessee.
Bredesen's decision to get involved in the Tennessee Democratic Party chair's race further complicated his political situation within the party. As Obama supporter, TNDP treasurer, and former TNDP Executive Director Chip Forrester threw his hat into the ring, Bredesen and a group of lobbyists joined in endorsing Nashville attorney Charles Robert Bone. Forrester, who called for an open forum to address party unity issues and ran on a platform of transparency and improved accessibility, was gently pushed under the bus by Bredesen, four of the five US Congressmen (including Obama supporter Jim Cooper), and a bevy of former TNDP chairmen.
It is essential for our next party chair to be a strong leader with a demonstrated record of success. We need someone with proven fundraising ability and a plan to re-take the legislature.
We feel Charles Robert Bone has the right experience and is the most qualified candidate to move the party forward. He brings a lot of energy, a fresh face and will connect with a new generation of Tennessee democrats.
The question raised by the Bone endorsement was this: Given Forrester's successful fundraising experience, his successful past tenure as the party's executive director, his successful work with the campaigns of Ned McWherter and Al Gore, and his commitment to unify the factions of the party, why would Bredesen endorse Bone? The unspoken implication of the endorsement was that Forrester lacked a record of success and didn't have proven fundraising ability. Forrester fired back:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemed to repeat it.
I know that you have received the recent letter from Gov. Bredesen, several membes of the congressional delegation, and several past chairs of the party on behalf of Charles Robert Bone.
First, I want to go on record stating that I have run a positive campaign and I intend to continue doing so. I have respect and admiration for both Charles Robert Bone and Charles Bone and all that they have done for Democratic politics in Tennessee. In fact, I gave Charles Robert one of his very first jobs in Tennessee politics in 1990 when I was Al Gore's US Senate campaign manager.
This year our party in Tennessee suffered its worst political defeat in decades, ironically while most of the country was seeing a resurgence in support for Democratic candidates evidenced by the election of Barack Obama and the dramatic expansion of Democratic majorities in the US House and Senate.
Our state Party was led this year by the very people who have now signed the endorsement letter for Charles Robert Bone. They set the strategy for this year’s campaign in Tennessee....
You cannot build a viable political party from the top down, no more than you can improve the economic well being of our country with "trickle down" economics as failed Republican administration policies, tragically for our country’s working men and women, have so vividly shown us these past 8 years.
And while I respect everyone who signed the endorsement letter, if these elections have taught us anything, they should have shown us that the "top down" approach does not work any longer in Tennessee.
Forrester effectively neutralized the Bredesen endorsement and won the chairmanship of the party by a vote of almost 2 to 1. In his acceptance speech, Forrester pledged to unite the state's Democrats and open the party to make it "the most inclusive party in the state of Tennessee." (This, of course, would not be hard to do given the way Tennessee Republicans have behaved.)
The Democratic Party in Tennessee has always stood for the average man and woman against the forces of power, privilege, and elitism. We have stood for fairness and safety in the marketplace and in the workplace, we have stood for individual rights and freedoms, we have stood for equal opportunities for all Americans, we have stood for equality and justice for all...
Tennessee took a turn in the wrong direction this past November. It's up to us as Democrats to change that in 2010. Working together, the Tennessee Democratic Party can make those changes happen here.
Forrester extended the olive branch to Bredesen and other opponents even before he was elected chair, offering the treasurer position to Charles Robert Bone.
Next, Gov. Bredesen's staff threatened to pull out of the party in anonymous comments to journalists.
With the continued recalcitrance of Bredesen's staff to cooperate or to be accountable, Forrester and the TN Democratic Executive Committee elected Bredesen foe Bill Freeman as treasurer.
Then, in a leak to the press, Bredesen aide/revolving-door-lobbyist Will Pinkston threw Forrester under the bus, stating that Forrester had raised money for the party without asking the governor's permission.
All this happened as Bredesen whined that he wasn't being loved enough by progressives.
Hey, Gov - do you think maybe you could look in a mirror?
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