Bredesen's political losses may help in governor's race

Monday, April 30, 2001 at 12:00am

Phil Bredesen's lessons learned from past political losses should help the former Nashville mayor in his run for governor, according to some who follow Tennessee's political landscape.

Bredesen, a Democrat, has announced his intention to seek the seat held by Republican Don Sundquist, the man who beat the then-mayor in 1994.

Avon Williams, a long-time follower of the state political scene and a supporter of expected Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, said it will be interesting to see if Bredesen challenges the $250,000 cap a candidate can spend on his or her own election effort.

That cap was put into place after Bredesen lost to Sundquist in 1994 in a race that saw the ex-mayor spend millions in defeat.

"Bredesen has learned that the more he spends of his own money, the less likely he is to win," Williams said. "Does he intend to spend a lot of money out of his own pocket, and are the Democrats going to stand by while a law they championed is ignored? Nobody has challenged that law. I think it's unconstitutional."

Williams described Bredesen as a "real popular guy" who is "already a name in the consciousness of Democratic voters."

Tom Lee, an attorney with Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis, said Bredesen has benefited from the knowledge gained in losing mayoral and gubernatorial races. "He has shown that each time he has been unsuccessful in an election, he regroups and comes back stronger than ever," Lee said.

"If you ask Bredesen what he could have done differently in 1994, it would have been to work more diligently with and take advantage of the network that Gov. Ned McWhorter had put together," Lee continued.

"But one thing we've learned about Phil Bredesen is that he does not make the same mistake twice."

Bredesen is expected to receive his toughest primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Bob Clement, who, according to press secretary Christi Ray, is expected to announce his intentions to run or not run "very soon."

"The entry of Phil Bredesen into the race will not alter my decision-making process," Clement said. As to when the congressman might announce his decision, Ray said, "He doesn't have a specific

timetable."

Lee said the prospects of a Democratic field featuring Bredesen and Clement, among others, could be very intriguing.

"I say the more candidates the better," Lee said. "And the harder fought the race, the better for everybody in the state."

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