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Lebanon mayor eying State Senate
Aug 10, 2004 12:00 am
Lebanon Mayor Don Fox is interested in being a State Senator. And he may not be alone.
Fox, a Democrat, said Monday he is exploring a possible run for the 17th District State Senate seat in 2006. Fox, who is serving his third term as mayor of the county seat, said he will begin actively talking with supporters and those who he said have asked him to think about running for the seat in the last several years.
"I've had several people over the last four years talk to me about it," Fox told The Lebanon Democrat on Monday. "I've had some talk to me about it as late as Saturday. I've had Republicans approach me even though I am a Democrat. To be honest with you, I am interested."
Fox's admission to being interested in the race is the first public statement by a local leader since a politically significant primary season ended Thursday. The election ended with current Republican State Sen. Mae Beavers's chosen candidate for her old 57th House seat, Mt. Juliet businessman Tom Wood, beaten soundly by freshman incumbent Rep. Susan Lynn.
The primary ended a chapter at least in a long and tortuous public feud between Beavers and Lynn that was revealed only during the primary.
The outcome of the race and Beavers's current battle with breast cancer left political observers openly questioning the vulnerability of Beavers' seat in 2006 despite the Mt. Juliet Republican already announcing her re-election campaign last month to squash rumors.
Beavers, however, reasserted her claim Monday night that she will run for re-election in two years. She added she was not really surprised by Fox's interest in running against her.
"A lot of people are talking about it, but it's two years away," she said from her Mt. Juliet home Monday night. "Anything can happen in two years."
Beavers declined comment on the threat Fox may or may not be in the District 17 State Senate race, but said anyone can run for public service.
"It's a free country, anybody can pull up a petition and run," she said. " … It's free country. If he wants to run let him run."
Leading Democrats in the county said the Lynn landslide peaked interest in their party in the 2006 Senate race.
Wilson County Road Superintendent Steve Armistead is a longtime Democratic Party activist in Middle Tennessee who worked for Beavers' opponent, Democrat Sherry Fisher, in 2002.
Armistead, speaking in general about the 2006 State Senate race, said he knew Democrats watched the Lynn returns with interest Thursday night.
"I don't think there is any doubt about that," Armistead said. "That stir set up a play for a conservative Democrat to run. It (the House primary) had to be a blow to her (Beavers.)"
Fox, who said his interest in the race predated the Beavers-Lynn controversy, already showed signs that conservative would be a buzz word in the 17th District for any Democrat.
"I'm a Southern Democrat, and to me that is probably a Republican in today's world," Fox said. "I am pro-life. I am for the sanctity of a Biblical marriage. I am against a state income tax."
Other potential Senate candidates contacted by the newspaper said they were hearing talk that the seat may be vulnerable and would not rule out running.
Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said he was not interested in the race right now. He too said he had been approached about running.
"I've heard a lot of conversation since election night," Ashe said. "I don't think that strengthened her (Beavers') position any. … I was asked by some local Republicans if I would be interested. All I'm interested in right now is being a good sheriff."
Phillip Warren is a Lebanon real estate agent and a mover in the local Republican party including leading the Bush/Cheney campaign in the county.
Warren, who lost a 1998 Senate bid to former Sen. Bob Rochelle, dismissed the idea but did not rule out running in 2006.
"That's a long way off," Warren said. "I wouldn't even think about that today. Too much can change. Things change often in politics. There is a Bush campaign that needs to be run right now and a lot of fences here that need to be mended in a hurry."
Perhaps the biggest question in the political mix other than Beavers' herself is Rochelle.
The former speaker pro tempore of the Senate dropped out of the 2002 race after a two-year battle with anti-income tax sentiments in Nashville looming over his re-election bid.
Reached last week after Thursday's election, Rochelle said simply, "I am not making political comments right now."
However, Rochelle is also sitting on $200,000 in his old Senate campaign war chest.
Williamson County political consultant Darren Morris ran Warren's race in 1998, Beavers' race in 2002 and Wood's race this year. Warren said an interesting ballot in 2006 and the Lynn win despite Beavers' best efforts would like encourage Democrats.
"I think it would give me encouragement," Morris said Monday. "Look at what you have on the ballot; a Democratic governor popular with both parties and a very competitive U.S. Senate race that will drive turnout.
"If I am a Democrat, I might be encouraged. I might even be encouraged if I am a Republican depending on what Mae Beavers does."
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.