By Michael Davis
Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Ed Bryant said Tuesday that his leadership experience and his support in West Tennessee make him the most formidable candidate against Democrat Harold Ford Jr. in November.
“We need to send people to Washington who are serious minded,” Mr. Bryant told the Hamilton County Republican Women’s Club.
Mr. Bryant, a former congressman, will face former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., and former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker in the August GOP primary.
Mark Brown, spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party, said he does not think Mr. Bryant will get out of the primary.
“The problem he’s got is most of the votes in the Republican primary are going to come out of East Tennessee,” he said.
Mr. Bryant, a former U.S. attorney who was elected to Congress in 1994 and served eight years in the U.S. House, said in an interview that his experience outside Washington gives him an edge over his opponents.
And Mr. Bryant told the club that Rep. Ford is trying to appear conservative to mask a liberal nature.
But Mr. Brown said Rep. Ford is moderate, despite what Republicans want to believe.
“Bryant is pretty far right, so maybe he doesn’t know what a moderate sounds like,” he said.
Hilleary campaign manager Jennifer Coxe said her candidate and Mr. Bryant are very similar ideologically. But she said Mr. Hilleary’s 2002 campaign for governor gives him greater name recognition statewide.
“Van is in a much stronger position to win the general (election), and he is the only conservative who can win the primary,” she said.
Corker campaign manager Ben Mitchell said the other three candidates are all “career politicians.”
“Then there’s Bob Corker, who spent a lifetime in Tennessee using conservative principles to achieve positive results,” Mr. Mitchell said.
Mr. Hilleary lost the 2002 gubernatorial race to Democrat Phil Bredesen. Mr. Bryant lost the 2002 Republican U.S. Senate primary, and Lamar Alexander eventually replaced Fred Thompson in that seat.
Mr. Corker lost the 1994 Republican U.S. Senate primary, and Bill Frist, now majority leader of the U.S. Senate, won that seat.
Rep. Ford is the only high-profile Democrat running in the race, while Mr. Corker, Mr. Hilleary and Mr. Bryant are the only high-profile Republicans running in the race to replace Sen. Frist, R-Tenn., who is not seeking re-election.
The primaries are on Aug. 3, and the general election is on Nov. 7.
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