Two of Karl Dean’s fiercest critics on the Metro Council aren’t ruling out launching election bids to unseat the well-financed, relatively popular mayor, signaling a potential insurgent campaign could be brewing.
Conservative council members Michael Craddock and Eric Crafton both told The City Paper Wednesday they aren’t closing the door on potential mayoral runs. Dean is up for re-election in August. Candidates can pick up paperwork to qualify for Metro’s elections on Feb. 18. They have until May 19 to file their petition papers. Dean still lacks an opponent.
“I never close any doors,” Crafton said. “I just have to evaluate and see who else throws their hat into the ring. I want the mayor to have some competition and to have to discuss some issues. I don’t think he’s earned the right to run unopposed with some of the decisions he’s made. So, I think at the very least, he needs to be challenged.”
Craddock and Crafton both ran unsuccessful local campaigns last year for Davidson County Criminal Court clerk and Juvenile Court clerk, respectively. The two council members, who were outspoken opponents of Dean’s Music City Center push, seem to believe Dean has turned more vulnerable following his recent retreat on his desire to redevelop the Metro-owned fairgrounds.
“In the last two or three months, I’ve had a lot of people who have come up to me and encouraged me to do that,” Craddock said of running for mayor. “Quite frankly, I’ve not decided to do it. I don’t know.
“Basically, the way I do things like that, I have to sit down and talk to my family and think through it myself,” Craddock said.
“Never say never,” he added.
Craddock represents parts of Madison, while Crafton represents segments of Bellevue. As conservative allies on the council, it’s unlikely both would jump in the mayor’s race. However, neither ruling it out seems to validate whispers within local political circles that Dean’s opponents are looking to recruit a candidate to run against the mayor.
“Obviously, you have to determine by the deadline, so that will be my criteria,” Crafton said. “I wouldn’t want to let the mayor run unopposed. There may be a candidate that pops up shortly who is well-funded, articulate and able to talk about issues. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
On one political issue, Dean has already defeated Crafton. In 2008, a mayor-led coalition helped defeat Crafton’s controversial “English-only” referendum.
Dean also ultimately won his push for Music City Center, though he’s facing a political setback with his thwarted plans to redevelop the fairgrounds.
Any candidate challenging Dean faces an uphill battle financially. According to the financial disclosure Dean turned in Monday, the mayor has nearly $426,000 cash on hand, the Metro Election Commission’s Joan Nixon said.
Moreover, as Dean showed in 2007, he always has the ability to dip into his personal wealth to finance his campaign. In defeating a handful of mayoral candidates, most notably former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement, Dean relied on more than $1 million of his family’s own fortunes.