published Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Watson out of race for Wamp's House seat


by Matt Wilson
Audio clip

Bo Watson

Though his name has been mentioned as a possible contender for months, Tennessee state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Monday he won't run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

"After surveying and thinking about it, once session was out, I really believe at this moment in time that my service to my community is better served in the Tennessee state Senate than the United States Congress," he said.

Sen. Watson said he spoke with supporters and his family in the days after the end of this year's legislative session and came to the "personal decision" to stay out of the race.

WHAT'S NEXT

The primary in the congressional race is Aug. 5, 2010.

Another lawmaker who had said he was considering a run, state Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, announced last month he wouldn't seek the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.

Rep. Wamp announced in January he won't seek re-election to the U.S. House. He is running for governor next year.

Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, Chattanooga attorney Chuck Fleischmann and engineer Tommy Crangle have announced they are running for the GOP nomination for the seat. Art Rhodes, a businessman from Cleveland, Tenn., said Monday he also is seeking the seat.

Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith has said she is considering a run. On Monday, she said she is "leaning toward running" but stopped short of making a formal announcement.

Ms. Smith said Sen. Watson "would have been a formidable candidate" if he had chosen to run in the congressional race.

On the Democratic side, former Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Paula Flowers and Chattanooga computer systems analyst Brent Benedict have announced bids for the seat.

State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester has said he did not know of any other potential Democratic candidates.

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Robin Smith has a problem. Watson was being recruited by the Lookout/Signal Mt. types who are very uncomfortable with Smith as a candidate and they are unlikely to gravitate towards her no that he is out. They think she is politically unsophisticated and too militant(her ineffective fuming over Kent Williams and her disasterous quiet backing of Oscar Brock as her successor are prime examples). She has demonstrated no personal fundraising skills (state parties raise money through professionals and rarely through personal solicitations by party chairs, despite their proclivity for taking credit for such things), has no base outside a small coterie of Republican "activists" (which total in the scores, not the hundreds) and has never run for elective office. Her most significant previous constituency consisted of 66 state executive committee members of which about 8 live in her district (and she was unopposed). In short, the Luptons, Probascos, Decosimos, Corkers, Friersons, et al of the third district think she is a hack.

That may be unfair to Robin, but that is the perception. Deserved or not, she has reaped the benefit of her reputation of being party chair during a successful time for the GOP. The real question is whether that can translate into real support. The powers that be have real reservations about whether that is possible.

June 30, 2009 at 10:45 a.m.
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