Tennessee's 10th senatorial district has been redistricted to include parts of Bradley County and tilt it toward Republican dominance. State Sen. Andy Berke, a Democrat, isn't seeking re-election in the reconfigured district: He's decided instead to reach for the seat to be vacated when Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield hits the term limit barrier next spring. So there's now a dogfight over the seat in Republican primary, and a less contention contest in the Aug. 2 ballot between three Democrats in their party's primary -- two of whom already hold other public positions which they could keep.
There's good reason for Berke to move on. There's little advantage for him to remain in Nashville, where Republicans rule the landscape. They have overwhelming majorities in both chambers -- and possibly super-majorities after November's election. The mayoral post, by contrast, is not only a chance for Berke to exercise leadership -- it's become a serious political launching pad. Bob Corker ascended after one mayoral term to the U.S. Senate, and former Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam stepped up to become governor,
Given the enhanced odds for Republicans in the reconfigured 10th District, the unexpectedly cantankerous face-off between businessman Greg Vital and long-time GOP insider, Todd Gardenhire, a financial consultant, has gotten the most media attention. The Democratic contenders -- City Councilman Andrea McGary, county school board member David Testerman, and long-time civic activist Quenston Coleman -- have avoided such a row.