Bredesen kicks off Senate campaign (plus some history notes)

Press release from Phil Bredesen campaign

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Phil Bredesen today announced that he is running to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.

Bredesen, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, said in mid-October that he was considering a Senate bid, following Senator Bob Corker’s announcement that he would not seek re-election in 2018. In the ensuing weeks, Bredesen launched an exploratory process that resulted in the decision to run.

“We all know Washington is broken,” Bredesen said in a video announcing his decision. “But while politicians are up there playing partisan games and working on their reelection, out here in America, back here in Tennessee, we have some real problems.”

Among major problems facing the state and country, he said: Lack of quality jobs, much-needed fixes to the Affordable Care Act, ballooning deficit spending by Congress, and the fast-spreading opioid crisis.

“It’s a mess, but it can be fixed,” Bredesen added. “I’m running for the Senate because I have the right kind of experience — and the actual track record — that it will take to start working across party lines to fix the mess in Washington and bring common sense back to our government.”

Elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 — becoming the first governor in Tennessee history to win all 95 counties — Bredesen has garnered widespread support for his proven, thoughtful leadership. In the State Capitol, he worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to set aside partisan politics in order to advance sound policies that benefitted all Tennesseans.

Before serving as Tennessee’s governor, Bredesen was mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999, working with citizens and community leaders to chart a course that made Music City U.S.A. one of the best places in America to live, work, and raise a family. Prior to public service, Bredesen served as CEO of HealthAmerica Corp., a health care management company that eventually grew to more than 6,000 employees and traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Bredesen will spend the remainder of 2017 organizing the campaign, then will formally kick off campaigning in January 2018.

Summary of a Smart Politics report on some interesting facts about a Bredesen candidacy (from a press release written before today’s announcement):

  • A Smart Politics analysis finds that Phil Bredesen would be the first ex- or sitting Democratic governor from Tennessee to win a U.S. Senate race in the direct election era (before 1913, senators were chosen by state legislatures), with Republican Lamar Alexander the only former governor to do so from either party in the state over the last century.
  • Only a small handful of former Democratic governors have even tried to win a Senate seat: Malcolm Patterson (1907-1911) lost a primary run-off to Congressman Kenneth McKellar in 1915, Prentice Cooper (1939-1945) lost the 1958 primary to Senator Al Gore, Sr., and Frank Clement (1953-1959, 1963-1967) lost the 1964 primary to Congressman Ross Bass and the 1966 general election to Republican attorney Howard Baker.


  • Overall, ex- and sitting Democratic governors have run for the U.S. Senate in just four of the 39 contests held in Tennessee since 1916. [A total of 13 Democrats won 28 of the 36 gubernatorial elections held in the state during this span].


  • Prior to the direct election era, several sitting or former Tennessee governors went on to win U.S. Senate seats including six Democrats: Sam Houston in 1846 (in Texas), Andrew Johnson in 1856, Isham Harris in 1876, William Bate in 1886, James Frazier in 1905, and Robert Taylor in 1906. Whig James Jones (1850) and Republican William Brownlow (1868) also made the political move from Nashville to D.C.


● It should also be noted that Phil Bredesen would be historically quite old if elected in 2018 – entering the 116th Congress at 75 years, 1 month, 14 days. That would make Bredeson the 14th oldest first term Senator in the history of the chamber, the fifth oldest to win a first term via an election, the second oldest to enter via election since the passage of the 17th Amendment, and the oldest to enter via direct election for a full term.


4 Responses to Bredesen kicks off Senate campaign (plus some history notes)

  • Michael Lottman says:

    Unfortunate and unwise.

  • Stuart I. Anderson says:

    Yesireeee, nothing like sending a 75 year old freshman senator to Washington whose first vote will be to make Chuck Schumer Majority Leader to stop “politicians. . . up there [from] playing partisan games and working on their reelection. . . . ” If this is an example of the wit and wisdom the Bredesen campaign will demonstrate I don’t think Marsha is going to have any trouble at all.

  • Kay White says:

    Age is a number and sadly many who think themselves to be wise, actually have very little wisdom. Wisdom does not come with formal education but with a combination of Common sense, education and I believe a true love for one’s country and/or state. It would be wrong to judge past Governor Bredesen who reached across the party lines and wanted to keep Tennessee a State Income Tax FREE State when on the other hand we had a Governor who called himself a Republican, Governor Sunquist, who tried and tried to cause our legislators to change this and cause Tennessee to HAVE a State Income Tax! It was said that he did not work across party lines except in trying to get the State Income Tax in place! What is wrong with this picture? Tom, why not interview Governor Bredesen and ask him several questions such as his stance on the Affordable Care Act, ask about the recent Tax Cut – how he feels and what he would want to do to make it better, etc. I would want to know what he feels about Education, for instance, how he felt about Common Core, how he feels about the new testing that Gov. Haslam implemented, if he felt that Tennessee needed the Gas Tax, ask some questions of both Governor Bredesen and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn that the people of Tennessee deserve to know. We must “judge” in order to “vote” correctly. A footnote would be that obviously our present Governor must have liked many of Governor Bredesen’s people whom he appointed because he (Governor Haslam) kept them in the positions that they were serving in, appointed by Governor Bredesen, such as our Tennessee Attorney General – Right or Wrong? And with this in mind, have these influences from the other side of the aisle guided many of Governor Haslam’s decisions? All of my statements are only “Food for Thought” but all of which will be in the minds of the Tennessee voters or at least should be before they vote for a Senator, Congressman/woman or for our next Governor! I certainly believe that a woman can do as good in a position as a man and sometimes you will find that a woman of character will not allow money to be her guide. However, you will also find that money has guided some men and women in their climb up the ladder to success and once they are wealthy, they only have one more goal to conquer and that is “Power”! Neither of which has been my driving force in life. I know that the true values in life are the character of a person, keeping one’s word, focusing on what is right not what is best for your own self, standing up for what you believe in and letting God be your guide. Thank you Tom for allowing me to insert some ideals for you to explore! Kay White for Governor

    • Tom Humphrey
      Tom Humphrey says:

      Your commentary is always welcome, Kay, as with other readers. As for the “right or wrong” question: Haslam kept two Bredesen appointees in his cabinet after taking office in 2011: Greg Gonzales at the Department of Financial Institutions and Susan Whitaker at the Department of Tourist Development. (Gonzales still serves; Whitaker left in 2015.) The attorney general is appointed by the state Supreme Court, which chose Haslam’s legal counsel, Herbert Slatery, over former AG Bob Cooper in 2014 when Cooper’s term expired.

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