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Hilleary's stock rising with Dems
Feb 27, 2006 12:00 am
February 16, 2006
POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: It appears the warm fuzzies are over between Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and former Congressman Van Hilleary.
The dust-up between the two former House colleagues began this week after Ford sent a letter to Hilleary over his use of the word "waltz" in a press release earlier in the month on Ford's abortion and tax records.
Hilleary is part of the Republican field challenging for the right to face Ford, the likely Democratic nominee, in the U.S. Senate race in November.
The two men appeared down right amiable at the first full-blown candidate forum of the campaign season in the Senate race.
Ford, however, took the "waltz" line to be a reference to his family's legal troubles, namely the federal Tennessee Waltz probe of the Tennessee General Assembly and his uncle John Ford's resignation from the State Senate amid federal criminal charges.
Hilleary shot back later in the week, echoing his campaign manager Jennifer Coxe who called the original release a "substantive criticism" of Ford's record on abortion and taxes.
"I agree this campaign should be about issues and records," Hilleary said in his response letter. "Go back and read the release. It is a substantive criticism of your liberal record. I am proud of my conservative congressional record. You too should be proud of your liberal record."
The sharp response by Ford may be an indication the Democrat favorite is focusing more on the Republican his campaign believes may be his likely opponent in the fall.
Heretofore, former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker has been the focus of Tennessee Democrats and Washington D.C. observers who see Corker's fund-raising advantage over the rest of the GOP field as insurmountable.
That school of thought may be changing as internal polling swirling around Tennessee Democratic Party circles show Hilleary with a commanding lead in the primary – and leading Corker by more than 20 points and fellow GOP traveler and primary opponent Ed Bryant by as much as 16 points.
Those numbers are in line with Hilleary's own polling, which the Bryant camp has attacked vigorously. More fire trained on Hilleary by Ford and Democrats may mean the legend of Bob Corker's money does not mean as much as it used to now with only six months until the primary.
The Odd Couple
Former Democratic Sen. Bob Rochelle brought a strange guest to his Thursday Rotary club in Lebanon – uber conservative Mt Juliet City Manager Rob Shearer.
Shearer and Rochelle go back to the former Senate Speaker Pro Tempore's legislative days when Shearer used to lobby for the state's home schoolers.
According to at least one Mt. Juliet loyal attendee, Shearer fielded questions from the crowd at Rochelle's request, including one on the prospect of metropolitan government.
Shearer may be the most empowered staff member in local government. The city manager form of government does inherently give him a great deal of discretion and authority.
Yet, many of his peers in local government believe it is Shearer – a LaGuardo resident – and not the elected officials of Mt. Juliet city government running the show in West Wilson County.
Shearer's reputation as the proverbial tail wagging the dog has become so cemented he has been bestowed a nickname in Lebanon city government – The Mad Scientist.