Former Gov. Phil Bredesen is considering a bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker.
Tennessee’s 48th governor — and the last Democrat to win statewide office — may be the only Democrat in the state with a shot at winning the seat.
He’s got money, having made millions in the healthcare industry.
He’s got a winning track record, winning the governor’s seat in 2003, and then won a landslide re-election, winning all 95 counties in Tennessee.
nd, of course, before serving as Tennessee’s governor, Bredesen served as mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999.
It’s likely that Bredesen may face off against Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who tossed her hat in the ring after Gov. Bill Haslam announced he wouldn’t run.
A Blackburn primary victory could make a moderate Democrat like Bredesen competitive, said Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University and a former Democratic congressional staffer.
“Blackburn’s announcement went about as far right as you can go on the Republican side, so she left a lot of political turf to her left,” Syler said. “For a Democrat to win, they’re going to need to get a solid Democratic vote, do well with independents and pull off a few moderate Republicans.”
“There is a path there,” he said.
But Bredesen has plenty of baggage, too.
Bredesen pledged in his gubernatorial campaign that he would save TennCare, the state’s health care plan based on the “HillaryCare” model from the 1990s and which was hemorrhaging money.
In the 1990s, Tennessee became the test case for government-run health care when then-First Lady, Hillary Clinton, was making the case for a similar system on a national level. It was dubbed TennCare and Tennesseans were promised lower costs and more coverage.
It nearly bankrupted the state.
And yes, Bredesen saved TennCare. But not with some bureaucratic fix, but rather by slashing 170,000 Tennesseans off the TennCare rolls, and reducing benefits.
He was governor during the FBI operation Tennessee Waltz, which exposed a government culture of bribery, bagmen, and crooked politicians. The sting led to the convictions or guilty pleas of a dozen state and local public officials — including several state senators, a state representative, two county commissioners, and two school board members.
And Bredesen promised ethics reform. But the legislation he backed was watered down, much less than it could have been.
Some lawmakers protested that the bill passed Monday dropped stiffer regulations, like a ban on cash contributions and a system for public financing of campaigns. Senator Doug Jackson, Democrat of Dickson, said the compromise version “gutted the work of this Senate, and did it in secrecy.”
“The hypocrisy of it all,” Mr. Jackson said. “All done in secrecy. It’s just not right.”
In addition, when proposals to tighten the rules on lobbyists were considered by the legislature, lobbyists came out of the woodwork during the special session to offer campaign donations, along with their thoughts on the reform law.
Also during his administration, Bredesen had to fire his chief legislative lobbyist for workplace harassment and alcohol abuse.
Bredesen was also plagued by corruption in the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and it got to the point where the then-governor would mock reporters for questioning his handling of the issue.