Gordon feared nasty campaign and ultimate gerrymandering

Monday, December 14, 2009 at 1:29pm

Congressman Bart Gordon decided against seeking reelection because he saw a savage campaign ahead and feared that, even if he won, he’d lose in 2012 given the likelihood that a Republican-controlled legislature would redraw his district, Gordon’s associates say.

Gordon’s announcement shocked many Democrats Monday and angered some who say they felt he was deserting the beleaguered state party in its time of need. Gordon became the second of Tennessee’s Democratic congressmen to retire this month, joining 20-year incumbent John Tanner in heading for the exits.

“I figure he said, ‘Screw it. Hell, I’ve served my 13 terms in Congress. It’s time for me to sit back and relax and enjoy my time with my kids and my wife,’ ” one Democratic insider told The City Paper. “It shocked me when I got the call this morning. … It’s got me a little discombobulated. I’m here trying to fight the good fight, and all the people I thought I looked up to are starting to say, ‘To hell with it, we’re done.’ ”

Republicans crowed as another vulnerable Democrat retired rather than face the voters in 2010. The respected Cook Political Report promptly rated the seat as a “likely Republican” pickup, and state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said he would announce his candidacy later in the day. He joins former Rutherford County GOP chair Lou Ann Zelenik in the race. Other Republicans are said to be thinking about running. No Democrat has yet announced, though the Nashville Post has identified possible contenders.

“Tennessee is now the place where Democrat congressional candidacies go to die,” boasted Andy Sere, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Nationally, four Democrats in swing districts have decided in recent weeks not to run again. Democrats have been dismissing the retirements as isolated cases, refusing to acknowledge the tough political environment that’s developing for the party, especially in red states like Tennessee.

But sources close to Gordon did not try to hide the role that cold political calculations played in his decision. Even if Gordon won next year, Republicans likely will retain control of the legislature and try to gerrymander the congressman out of Congress, ensuring yet another difficult campaign in 2012, these sources say.

Gordon, who has held Middle Tennessee’s 6th District since 1984, has drawn the fire of Tea Party activists for his votes on climate change legislation and health care reform. In 2008, John McCain beat President Obama in Gordon’s district by more than 20 points.

Yet polling showed Gordon remained comfortably ahead of potential challengers, one source said. “It really overall was positive. He was ahead and should have been able to stay there. He still had good favorables. When you ask the question, ‘Is Bart part of the solution in Washington or part of the problem?’ a solid majority still thought he was part of the solution.

“We would have won this race,” this source says. “But it would have been ugly, divisive for the community and for the whole district. The problem then is basically you’ve probably gotten yourself two more years. You’ve put everybody through that and then you more than likely are redistricted out of office. You’re in a different district and you’re fighting it all over again.”



15 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 12/14/09 at 1:18

I think the correct terminology here would have been the Republican state legislature would have UNgerrymandered him out of office. I am thinking Lincoln Davis may be feeling some heat now.

By: BigPapa on 12/14/09 at 1:20

I never understood why anyone would split their vote. I know sometimes there are good people across the isle, but when it comes to congress, regardless of what side you are on, you should always vote the party over the person, because thats how they'll vote when they're in DC.

By: TN4th on 12/14/09 at 1:41

Aw just great ... the tea baggers turn up the heat and Democrats flee the kitchen. It's hard to characterize this as anything but cowardice in the face of a fringe of crazy people.

By: bugmenot on 12/14/09 at 1:47

Only crazy people throw around words like tea & bagger.

By: shinestx on 12/14/09 at 2:01

What a crock, Gordon. You are afraid of the inevitable backlash against all Dem-wits for ignoring the electorate in ramming healthcare deform down their throats with no bipartisan approach. We know what you and your disgraceful party are doing, and we'll be firing a whole lot of you guys.

Also, I'll throw a little bit of the slime that's perpetually tossed out at conservatives when liberals cannot win an argument (which is most of the time): You, Mr. Gordon, appear to be greedily choosing to take the money in your campaign coffers because you know the next election would take a lot of that money for you to keep your seat. You (rightly) predict that the next redistricting will also squeeze you out of a district. Mr. Gordon, you are a dying breed... a self-described "conservative" in a leftist-socialist party. At least you are smart enough to know that Americans do not want your party much longer. They were duped once, but not again. This ain't your daddy's Bill Clinton Democrat. It's a whole other monster completely. Geez, makes the cowardly Republican party look good in comparison.

By: stlgtr55@yahoo.com on 12/14/09 at 3:28

Tea Bagger is a term Bill Clinton came up with, and he didn't mean it as complimentary. I think we all know what he was referring to. I think Tea Partiers might be a nicer terminology. Thank God for the Tea Partiers.

By: shinestx on 12/14/09 at 4:50

We know that Bill Clinton is quite familiar with the term, too! Yuck!! Now I can't get that thought of the stained blue dress out of my mind.

I think it's funny when people use that term "tea bagger", it's just a reflection on them. Anderson Cooper used the term last summer, and everybody knew where he learned the phrase. LOL

By: willtw on 12/15/09 at 8:03

Where are the independent candidates or the Libertarian candidates? Both parties have flip flopped on issues....Turn the teapot over, spill out most if not all of the current members AND the Senate and let's start anew! Are we going to keep swapping bad dollars for more bad dollars? Since when does a conservative have to be Democratic or Republican?

By: Anna3 on 12/15/09 at 8:25

This spells extreme trouble for Roy Herron too! and.The Dims have no one in the race for Governor that has any name ID....its going to be a long decade for the Dims. I suspect many in the State House will also quit since they have no chance to get any fund raising help from national figures. It seems Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are writing off the South as a long term loss.

By: vechester on 12/15/09 at 9:09

I predict that next November the media BHO lapdog hacks will portray the Dems losses to some kind of a retreat for the left, not just simply a defeat, and that this is normal and expected for an off-year election. In reality it will be a massive blow to a party that is more Socialist than democratic.

BHO knows that he must get the much unwanted health care bill through before Christmas or it will never pass, certainly not in a critical election year like 2010 will be and certainly not after Dems go home and face their constituents.

Otherwise if the massive health care bill passes before Christmas, Nancy Pelosi will have me thrown in jail for not buying into it :-((

By: DustyU on 12/15/09 at 10:00

Three comments:
First, at least he's honest enough with himself to walk away. Most politicians let their ego get in the way of common sense.
Second, tea-bagging and tea-baggers have been terms in the sex trade for at least 50 years that I know of. So Bill Clinton just made the term famous.
Third, yes we need a real third party, not more crackpots screaming obscenities. Both Democrats and Republican have forgotten the US Constitution. I considered RR a personal friend, was out to his ranch twice, so I think I can speak with some authority when I say he is probably rolling over in his grave at the travesty his party has become (and the Dems are no better).


By: stlgtr55@yahoo.com on 12/15/09 at 12:03

Sorry I didn't make myself clear on the "tea-bagger" issue. I think we all know that Clinton borrowed it from the sex-trade industry. The Tea-Party people come from Dems, Repubs, Libertarians, and all parties. Some of them haven't even voted for years. I think a third party stands a great chance on winning, depending on the candidate. I think we should be able to tell by what people stand for by reading about them, listening to what they say, etc. I, personally would like to see someone who has not held a political office, and would promise faithfully not to become a "Career Politician."

By: vechester on 12/15/09 at 12:07

Dusty, with respect to your comments, we simply need conservative leadership in the Republican party, not moderate mushyness that stands for nothing. Third party means a split for conservatives and a win for Dems.

By: pswindle on 12/15/09 at 3:54

Rep. Gordon, thank you many years of honest, well thought-out policies that helped both the Dems and GOP. I do not blame you for retiring because the GOP is getting nastier as each year passes. I remember what happen to Harold Ford, Jr. from the unqualified, silly Corker. When the GOP has total control of TN, we will fail completely out of radar. I wonder how many republicans need good health care? I bet when a bill is passed, they will be the first in line to get their free care. I know plenty of republicans that are against anything that the Democrats wnat to do to help the betterman of mankind, but you can bet your life they are the first one to get theirs. I know of one that has more money than her family could ever spend, and she has spent millions of medicare money. She is against anything that would give hope to the unfortunate. She is a good ole republican. She said, "I don't give a care about anyone else, but me and my family." She forgot to say that her family inherited billions from a family that made their money on the backs of the poor.

By: joekirkpatrick on 12/15/09 at 4:26

Dear Woods:

Oh dear, the injustices continue to pile up...

Wouldn't it have been more accurate for Congressman Gordon to call it "de-gerrymandering" instead of "redrawing" since it is the Democrats who have been performing this unchecked miscarriage of electoral justice for decades on end?

Joe Kirkpatrick for Governor