The 2014 race for governor is unofficially beginning as leading House Democrat Craig Fitzhugh considers a run for governor.
Sources close to the minority leader told The City Paper the Ripley Democrat is planning to put his name on the ballot for the state’s top job.
When asked directly whether he would run for governor, Fitzhugh said “I wouldn’t rule it out at all.”
“I’ve got some experience, good, bad or otherwise. And feel like I understand the issues of this state, understand the budgetary process and just am concerned with some of the fundamentals of our state. Before we step too far back, we just need to keep things moving forward,” he told The City Paper Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, before the House Democratic Caucus, Fitzhugh had played an audio montage of classic comeback speeches, including “Inch-by-Inch” from the film Any Given Sunday, saying it was time for Democrats to have “somebody at the top that we can rally around.”
Fitzhugh has served in the legislature for just less than 20 years, largely as the caucus’ budget guru. He first ran for minority leader and won in 2010. He was re-elected to that post Wednesday.
“If we can have a viable statewide candidate at the next general election that espouses the views of many Tennesseans — which happens to be the views of many Democrats ... even though it would be running against a multimillionaire, Senate seats, House seats, somebody can rally around at those levels and we can start bringing our house back,” he told The City Paper.
“We’re in a tough position, and we’re in a crossroad where we could just continue to be small and let people sort of run over us, let the other side run over us,” he said. “Or we can start clawing our way back. So I think that’s what our people want to do.”
At the caucus elections, members voted to keep Old Hickory Rep. Mike Turner as the group’s chairman despite a challenge from Bolivar Rep. Johnny Shaw who argued the caucus lacked adequate transparency, should be more inclusive and more willing to work with Republicans in their new super majorities.
Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican in the middle of his first term, currently enjoys a 68 percent approval rating, according to a poll released Wednesday by Vanderbilt University. Of 829 registered voters surveyed, 60 percent of those surveyed who identified themselves as Democrats thought favorably of the governor.