Today, Congressman Bill Jenkins (R), who represents the 1st District of Tennessee, which encompasses Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City, and everything else almost all the way down to Knoxville, announced he will not run for a sixth term in the House. Jenkins, who will turn 70 this year, said he wanted to spend more time with his family and work on his farm.
Jenkins was the Lt. Governor from 1969-1971. He replaced a 34-year incumbent, Congressman Jimmy Quillen (R) (pictured above in 1994), in 1996. If I'm not mistaken, he said then that he would only be serving five terms, as Northeast Tennessee had just had a longtime incumbent, and one of his main issues (albeit unspoken) was change. I had assumed Jenkins would run again. It's good to see that Congressman Jenkins is honoring his pledge.
I like Bill Jenkins. I met him down at the Jimmy Quillen Veterans Affairs Hospital when my grandpa was there. He's a genuinely nice guy, and he's never been partisan in his arguments.
Some of the potential candidates include:
State Senator Ron Ramsey (Blountville) (Ramsey is the leader of the Senate Republicans, who tried unsuccessfuly to unseat Lt. Governor John Wilder (D) in a State Senate vote where Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for Wilder.)
State Representative Steve Godsey (Blountville)
State Representative Matt Hill (Jonesborough)
State Representative David Davis (Johnson City)
State Representative Jason Mumpower (Bristol)
--I would say the favorite here is either Ramsey or Mumpower. Ramsey probably wants to run for statewide office (he was touted as a possible candidate for Governor), so he may pass on this race. Mumpower will be 33 years old this year, so it could be argued that he is inexperienced. But Hill is actually a few years younger than Mumpower, so if we're just going for experience here, then that would throw it in Davis's favor.
State Representative Nathan Vaughn (Kingsport)
Fmr. State Senator Carl Moore (Johnson City)
Dr. Graham Leonard (Kingsport)
--Okay, as you can see, the Democratic bench in Northeast Tennessee is kind of - sparse. Nathan Vaughn was elected when a Republican incumbent was found to have hit on boys in swimming pools, then shot himself. I think Vaughn would have trouble, because, although it's an awful thing in 2006, I believe it would be difficult to elect a black man in this district. Graham Leonard was the 2004 nominee, and received 26%. Carl Moore is definitly my favorite. He's a really nice guy (I met he and his wife at the Bristol Hospital once while I was riding the elevators). He is still relatively active in the party (he endorsed Wesley Clark for President in 2004). And he is extremely intelligent. So, my choice right now, and I'll make it an official endorsement (for what it's worth), is this: Carl Moore for Congress.
The 1st District of Tennessee is the most heavily Republican district I can think of. Since the beginning of the Civil War (1861), Republicans have held this seat for all but two years. Two years! Holy crap. And, unless my memory fails me, Republicans in presidential elections have won this race every year but 1948, when Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrat, won it. I would place our chances of winning below 40%, but it's doable. If the tide turns against the Republican (President Bush has a 51% disapproval in Tennessee), and if Harold Ford can win the Senate race, I think we've got a shot!
[UPDATE: Here's a map of Tennessee's 1st District. As you can see by the little map in the corner, Gerrymandering is a problem in Tennessee. But, as I'm trying to point out, The 1st is a pretty big district, and any Democrat who wants to even have a shot will have to be energetic and willing to shake alot of hands, walk alot of sidewalks, and spend a whole lot of time going up and down I-81]
[UPDATE 2: I've just received word that former Johnson City Mayor and current State Claims Commissioner Vance Cheek will be running in the GOP primary.]