- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Limp Frist: Majority Leader could lose straw poll
Jan 16, 2006 12:00 am
January 13, 2005
POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's political team is in what insiders are calling 'panic mode" over registration trends at the upcoming Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis.
What should be a home-turf coming out party for Frist's 2008 presidential ambitions may turn into a scenario where Frist is outnumbered in his own state and facing the proposition of losing a high-profile White House straw poll to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
A source close to the conference and the Frist political operation said Frist's team has watched nervously as registrations from Mississippi Republicans has outpaced those by Tennessee Republicans by a wide margin.
The fear among Frist's team is that a very Gore-esque moment may develop where Frist is unable to carry a GOP straw poll at an event in the largest city in his home state.
Frist's political operation is said to have developed a 'team captain" system where they are working the state county by county to try and turn out more Tennessee registration at the conference.
The statewide network has met in a series of conference calls to try and solve the SRLC Tennessee registration problem.
The registration issue should not be a mystery to the Frist team as Memphis is the last real stronghold of the Democratic Party in Tennessee. It is also a good six- to eight-hour drive from the rock-ribbed Republican hills of East Tennessee, the traditional GOP base in the state.
That's gonna leave a mark
U.S. Senate hopeful Van Hilleary won a major victory Thursday in primary opponent Ed Bryant's back yard of West Tennessee.
Hilleary was endorsed by Jeff Ward, chairman of the increasingly influential TeamGOP.org activist organization.
Ward issued an endorsement in conjunction with the Hilleary campaign, saying the former gubernatorial candidate and congressman would make a 'great Senator."
'I have decided to endorse in the 2006 Senate race because for me and many of my fellow grass roots activists across the Volunteer State the choice is crystal clear," Ward said. 'I saw first hand the excitement and energy Van Hilleary brought to West Tennessee when it was cut off from much of the Republican establishment. Van Hilleary has traveled all across West, Middle and East Tennessee working to build a meaningful Republican majority in this state, all the while asking for nothing in return. Many times I have seen Van Hilleary demonstrate courage and leadership for no other reason than because he believed in what grass roots Republicans were doing. Now I am endorsing Van Hilleary because I believe in him."
Ward, a former county party chairman and lawyer, is becoming an increasingly influential figure in the grass roots section of the Tennessee GOP. His organization's website and accompanying blog have become regular reading for many party regulars.
The Ward endorsement may also be a real commentary on Hilleary's statewide strength with grass roots activists left over from the 2002 gubernatorial race.
'Thou doth protest too much"
Congressman Harold Ford Jr.'s U.S. Senate campaign went on the offensive Thursday in an attempt to counteract press reports statewide of Republican accusations Ford took campaign funds tied to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Ford's camp sent out a letter statewide to newspapers challenging coverage in the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper of charges by GOP Senate candidates Bob Corker for taking 'Team Abramoff" money.
Ford campaign committees took almost $4,000 in recent years from attorneys with the Greenberg Traurig firm, Abramoff's former employer.
'I don't know Jack Abramoff, have never taken money from Jack Abramoff or any of the tribes he represented," Ford states in the letter. 'There is absolutely no evidence to support these allegations. None whatsoever."