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Gordon gears up for '06 run
Sep 23, 2005 12:00 am
September 21, 2005
Gearing up for his 11th re-election campaign, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon attended a fund-raiser Monday night in Lebanon. And while the 6th Congressional District may be witnessing a political shift underneath his feat, Gordon said he is planning on running just as he has for every cycle since he took the seat over from former Vice President Al Gore in 1984.
"I've always felt that the best way to be rehired for a job is to do a good job, and that's what I'm trying to do. And I think that after 22 years people understand that," Gordon told The Lebanon Democrat on a visit to the newspaper Monday night.
Gordon was re-elected in 2002 with 66 percent of the vote, and in 2004 with 64 percent. But the last time he faced a difficult race was in 1996, when he soundly defeated Republican Steve Gill of Williamson County 54-42. Gill came much closer to knocking off Gordon two years earlier, when he recorded 49 percent of the vote to Gordon's 51 percent.
"I ran in 1994 when there was a bit of a tide as you can imagine," Gordon said, referring to the Republican Revolution of 1994 that gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time in decades. "And I was fortunate enough to win then. And you're never going to see another tide like that, I don't think."
But according to political experts, the sixth district is growing increasingly Republican. After just barely taking Tennessee away from Gore in 2000, George W. Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry by a margin of 20 percentage points here in 2004.
Last year, two Republican victories over Democratic incumbents in Sumner and Rutherford counties handed Republicans the State Senate for the first time since Reconstruction.
Republicans say the area is trending Republican, but whether or not they can capitalize on that to defeat Gordon is uncertain.
"The Tennessee sixth is definitely a vulnerable seat," said Jonathan Collegio, the press secretary for the National Republican Campaign Committee, the GOP's arm for recruiting and funding U.S. House candidates.
Chris Devaney, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, said they have had people approach the party to express interest in running, but could not share names until a formal announcement was made.
Two candidates often mentioned as the most formidable would-be challengers are State Sens. Diane Black and Jim Tracy, the two senators whose victories last year helped Republicans pick up the Senate.
Black said she has not made any plans or announcements regarding running for Congress, but did say she has received numerous phone calls and e-mails from her constituents urging her to do so.
Gill said Republicans are still assessing whether this is the year to try and unseat Gordon.
"The numbers have to have shifted pretty strongly in favor of the Republicans in order for the district to be competitive," he said. "At this point, it'd be a stretch to say that the numbers are good enough yet."
Black said her victory is evident a change is already underway in the area.
"What happened in my last race was a pretty significant change between when (former State Sen. Jo Ann) Graves won her last race," she said.
Gordon believes any trends affecting his next election cycle are going to be national, and will hurt Republicans more than Democrats.
"I think there is going to be a trend this year, because of ethics, because of the price of gas, because of the deficit – there's a lot of unrest in other issues that are going on," Gordon said. "So I think there's going to be something of an anti-incumbency year."
That dynamic, Gill said, could lead to some potential Republican candidates saying, "You know, I'm going to take a pass," he said.
But Collegio was optimistic about Republican recruiting efforts, saying "the right candidate with a good campaign can beat Bart Gordon."
Gill said Black and Tracy would be "good candidates in a vacuum, but you don't run in a vacuum."
"It'd be a stretch to say that the district is a Republican district," he said.