Whitehouse: Quiet man

Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 11:45pm

While the rest of the city’s small political universe has been watching the turmoil disrupting both state party organizations, there has been one interesting development. Or, perhaps more accurately, non-development.

Attorney Jeff Yarbro and state Sen. Douglas Henry are headed for a recount in their Democratic primary for the 21st District, while the Republican Party is stuck with a divisive stalemate after Lou Ann Zelenik’s refusal to concede defeat to state Sen. Diane Black in the GOP primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.

What has been curious, though, is retiring state Rep. Ben West’s silence on an endorsement — or even a statement — about who will take the legislative seat he has held for the past 25 years.

It’s not like West has ever been afraid to talk. The passionately pro-gun Democrat, who has at times sponsored legislation that was questionably close to his business interests (security companies and an ATM business), recently waded into the 5th District congressional campaign by endorsing Republican challenger CeCe Heil, also a Sarah Palin “Mama Grizzly.” Heil finished third.

The candidates for West’s seat are Jim Gotto and Sam Coleman, both members of the Metro Council. Gotto, the Republican, is being touted by the state GOP and has a great shot at winning the race. Coleman, the Democrat, is scrambling to unify his base, which normally would include West.

But does Coleman really want — or need — West’s blessing?

President Barack Obama carried the state’s 60th House District with a slight majority. Former Vice President Al Gore got about half the votes in the district during his 2000 presidential run. Bob Clement, Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper all carried it in 2002. In fact, the only time in the last 10 years that a member of West’s party flat-out lost the district was when Bob Tuke was swept aside by the Lamar Alexander re-election campaign in 2008; Tuke garnered about 45 percent of the vote.

Interestingly, back in March, it was Gotto who introduced a Metro Council resolution honoring West. While there were a number of co-sponsors, Coleman was not one of them.

Maybe not seeing Coleman kiss his ring will encourage West to endorse Gotto. Or perhaps it’s a more ideological thing.

“[My wife and I] are of the opinion that this country has been heading in the wrong direction, and that our voices have not been heard by our current representation regarding congressional legislation,” West said in a statement endorsing Heil. “After looking at all the candidates in this race, it became abundantly clear that CeCe has the leadership skills and the moral character needed today to be a leader in this country. She is a strong Constitution Conservative and successful business owner, a devoted wife and mother, and Christian. She believes in smaller government and lower taxes to boost this failing economy, so more people can be put on the payroll, rather than on unemployment rolls. She is opposed to ObamaCare and government takeover of private industry; and so are we.” [sic]

That sure sounds like someone who’d show up at a Republican fundraiser.

Back in 1951, West’s father, also named Ben West, won election as mayor of Nashville. The most significant moment in Mayor West’s tenure occurred in 1960, during the sit-in demonstrations of 1960, when civil rights activists were fighting the segregation of downtown lunch counters. The protesters marched on City Hall and met the mayor at the doorstep. They challenged him to take a stand against segregation. West did, and the business community quickly followed his lead.

As a result, Nashville became the first Southern city to desegregate public facilities.

West the younger has never taken a stand as bold as his father’s. He has always been part of a larger crowd on major initiatives — never a leader in the legislature. Just once, it would be nice to see him stand out front and alone with his beliefs. Like his daddy.

Filed under: City Voices

17 Comments on this post:

By: drusie on 8/23/10 at 4:56

Love knowing the 1960 history about Mayor Ben West's stand against segregation in Nashville.

By: govskeptic on 8/23/10 at 6:09

Why should Mr. West be goated into endorsing anyone. He's done his job and served his time in the legislature. After watching Mr Coleman in the Council for a few yrs. I suspect Mr. Gotto's views on most subjects would certainly be closer to Mr. West's than would the views of Mr. Coleman on virtually any subject. "Silence is golden" on this particular subject!

By: budlight on 8/23/10 at 7:03

drusie, I'm with you, especially when I hear people coming down on Nashville TN as being behind the times. Looks like we lead the parade on this one: As a result, Nashville became the first Southern city to desegregate public facilities

By: girliegirl on 8/23/10 at 7:18

Both Coleman AND Gotto are wonderful people, and to be honest, they're the kind you would feel confidence in were you to leave your children alone with them. You can't say that about most politicians these days! Like West, it's hard for most of us to side with a particular candidate this time. Looks like it's going to be a truly private decision come voting day.

By: drusie on 8/23/10 at 7:50

budlight, appreciate your comment that Nashville took the lead in aspects of desegregation. The late Gov. Frank Clement sent in the National Guard in the 1950s to enforce integration at Clinton High School. Tennesseans can take pride in this history.

By: budlight on 8/23/10 at 8:03

Girlie, Mr. Coleman has always involved the community in his decisions. Even if we all didn't agree, we had a voice. He never shut anyone out.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/25/10 at 7:19

That is a very telling endorsement Mr. West gave CeCe Heil.

The sad fact is that our voters don't seem to really do anything but vote party line. Look at those statistics. I think it's telling us that people don't care to learn the candidates or issues, they are just programmed to vote D or R.

I would encourage Mrs. Heil to run as an Independent, but without the D or R by her name it will be pathetic.

Does anyone think we should just remove the party from the general election? Wouldn't that weed out the people who can't even bother to learn the name of a candidate they support?

By: pswindle on 8/25/10 at 8:57

Ben, would the favor be returned? I doubt it. The GOP stands together regardless.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/25/10 at 9:40

Swindle, Ben has seen the light.

Democrat's policies are dragging us down. The party is over, it's time to clean up the stains on the floor and empty the garbage. Deep down we all knew it couldn't go on forever.

By: pswindle on 8/25/10 at 4:18

Are you saying that the GOP hold in TN has made this a great state? Oh, I remember we can carry guns everywhere. If it were not for our Governor, we would be in the same shape as most of the other states. I beleive he is a democrat.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/26/10 at 7:37

Come on Swindle, how naive do you think people are?

Playing pin the good on the executive doesn't work.

Remember we have a 3 part system. Balancing the budget rarely requires the judiciary, but we all know that the state budget is done by the legislative branch. That has the biggest impact on the shape of our state.

Bredesen has been a good governor compared to many others, but he alone is not responsible for our state's economy, laws, or anything else.

By: pswindle on 8/26/10 at 10:02

Who prepares the budget so it can be voted on? The Governor has that privlege, and it is voted on by the bodies. As I said before, thank you Mr. Governor for leaving TN in a fairly good shape. Remember the former governor and the mess that he inherited. It takes a democrat to fix the mess.

By: lotstosay on 8/27/10 at 7:27

Ben's vote is for Sam Coleman. Although he respects both candidates, he supports the Democratic nominee. The other four Democratic candidates for the House 60 race also are totally behind Sam. Hermitage, Donelson and Antioch are fortunate to have two qualified Metro Councilmen vying for the position.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/27/10 at 7:32

You're right swindle. It's a tango for one.

No other factors, just the governor and then a rubber stamp from the mindless bunch down the hall. You can go back to American Idol now, sorry this story kept you away from it.

By: budlight on 8/27/10 at 9:53

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin's grandson, says he wishes he hadn't apologized for telling lies about the former Alaska governor because he's "never lied about anything." Johnston said in an interview on CBS' "The Early Show" to air Friday that he wishes that he hadn't issued the apology to Palin.

This "boy" is a born politician and a born loser!

By: GUARDIAN on 8/27/10 at 10:53

I left the democrat party years ago when Carter gave it to the liberals. I never became a republican and won't but I have voted for who I knew would do the best job. In past elections the democrats would vote for Satan as long as he was a democrat and at last all the chickens have come home to roost and the nation now sees the truth. With the exception of a few racist, socialist and morons who will never see the truth moderate democrats and conservative democrats have become independents who have no problem voting for the person that will help take their country back. Then they can return to the party of Jackson and take back their party but first they must run the socialist and reverse racist off while returning truth and honor to the democrat party. Before you liberal socialist progressives start crying and beating your keyboard listen the fat lady has been singing for over a year and getting louder with each and every day.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/28/10 at 8:24

Well said Guardian.

A party is just a party. A rose by any other name...

Both parties are barely different from each other regarding anything they actually have an effect on.

Each party has largely left it's members behind.

I wish more voters were as smart as you. And I wish more democrats would look at Jackson's attitude on the central bank.