Tomorrow, Sen. Jim Kyle will announce his campaign for governor.
Already late to the game, Kyle is at further disadvantage in that fundraising will be forbidden during the legislative session. The Democrat is also on record sponsoring an income tax. Yet, despite, all his drawbacks as a candidate, he has as good a chance as any of the presently announced candidates for governor.
Put simply, the field is weak. Kim McMillian's campaign doesn't seem to be coming together. Her fundraising is weak and the "Bredesen people" have gone elsewhere. She could conceivably be out of the race by the time early voting starts.
Millionaire Ward Cammack has shown some flashes of Bredesen brilliance but has also proved less than willing to sufficiently self-finance his campaign. He could miss the cut as well.
The other two candidates, Sen. Roy Herron and Mike McWherter, also have their problems. Herron, despite being a preacher, has developed a reputation for stretching the truth and McWherter has yet to show much at all past his last name. This is to say nothing of the fact that, hailing from the same hometown, they drastically reduce each others' base.
No, Sen. Kyle, from Big Shelby, has just as good a chance as any. But in this field, that ain't saying much.
There is a potential candidate out there who could change the dynamic and really make an impact. This candidate could provide the party with a vision different from both the old Dixiecratic good ole boy Democratic party as well as the new community organizers of Chip Forrester.
This candidate could outline a program for a party that was at the same time solidly progressive and fiercely populist. A party that could stand just as easily against the reactionary conservatism of Ron Ramsey as the milquetoast moderation of Bill Haslam.
I'm talking of course about the former state Senator from Clarksville, Rosalind Kurita.
Considering recent history, it maybe be difficult to wrap one's head around the idea. Kurita was, after all, cast out of the party after winning a certified primary election. She was the woman who voted to hand the Senate over to Ramsey, the party of Sherri Goforth and Paul Stanley, the reactionary, rabidly pro-business, anti-environmental party that wishes to carve up the state during redistricting to ensure Republican majorities for generations.
However, it is important to remember that Kurita did what she did for a reason. It wasn't that she shared the views of Ramsey. She voted against former Lt. Gov. John Wilder because she was progressive and she wished something better for her party than to continue to allow reform to be held hostage.
As long as Wilder remained in control of Senate things would remain status quo. Yes, the excesses of the Republican Right were curtailed, but so were all efforts to renew the Democratic Party.
Kurita saw a chance to break the hold Wilder and the old guard had on the politics of the Democratic Party and she took it. While she may have swung power in Ramsey's direction, she also moderated Ramsey. There was a personal and political bond between the two and Kurita leveraged that to keep the more radical Republicans from running wild while she served progressive goals.
It was Kurita, you'll remember, who while serving as Ramsey's supposed 'lapdog', earned the top score on a respected environmental group's list as well as procuring an increase the cigarette tax above and beyond what Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, had asked for.
Kurita was not just able to use Republicans to achieve and maintain power as Wilder did. She was able to use Republicans to achieve results, tangible results.
Tennessee's future isn't blue. It's gonna take something special to sell progressive populism in a red state and get results. Kurita can — because she has.
If Haslam is her opponent, she cannot only use her progressive credentials to bring along some of the reluctant base, she can use her support of gun rights to hit Haslam where he is weak. If it is Ramsey, she can use the campaign to more fully explain why she voted for a Republican Speaker and finish the game she started in January 2007.
Her detractors can jaw all they want. The woman is a progressive. She gave power to Ramsey with the intention of one day seeing it taken back.
A race against Ramsey, even in defeat, would allow Kurita to prove that Ramsey was only a means to an end. A Kurita campaign for governor would be redemptive not just for her but for the TNDP itself. If Democrats could accept Kurita, a true progressive populist as their nominee it would signal that the factional squabbling was over in the party and that the healing could begin.
Which is one of the reasons why it likely will never happen.
A.C. Kleinheider is NashvillePost.com's political blogger. Visit Post Politics at http://postpolitics.net