published Monday, September 9th, 2013

Democrat Sara Kyle mulls bid for governor in '14

  • photo
    Sara Kyle speaks to attorneys during a hearing at the Hamilton County Courthouse in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Fellow Democrats chanted "Run Sara, run!" during the party's annual fundraiser over the weekend in support of former Tennessee Regulatory Authority Chairman Sara Kyle, who is weighing a challenge to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014.

Kyle beamed, waved and later worked the crowd of about 500 or so Democrats who attended Saturday night's annual Jackson Day Dinner in Nashville.

She later told reporters she continues to travel the state, listening to people's concerns and assessing a bid. Kyle said she has no "timeline" on a decision.

"They tell me they just want to be heard," Kyle said. "They have issues that are taking turns they don't want."

She alluded to efforts by the Haslam administration and State Board of Education to tie teacher certification renewals to student test scores.

"I'm not going to get into campaign issues yet," Kyle said. "But people have concerns whether they're practicing a certain vocation or they're in jobs that the rules are changing and they want me to hear them and listen to them. I'm just listening."

With teachers angry that their careers hang in the balance with standardized test outcomes, which they argue can swing wildly from year to year, the state board last month put the controversial plan tying test scores to licensure on hold until 2015.

Although Haslam's education Commissioner Kevin Huffman initially proposed the changes in response to the state board's request, the governor agreed to postpone the change.

Kyle was elected to the then-Public Service Commission in 1994 in a bad year for Democrats when they lost the governorship and both U.S. Senate seats. Since then, only one Democrat has been elected to a statewide position. That was Phil Bredesen, first elected in 2002, who went on to serve two terms.

The Public Service Commission, which regulated utilities, was later turned into the Tennessee Regulatory Authority by state lawmakers at Republican Gov. Don Sundquist's urging. The TRA has an appointed board.

Last year, Haslam persuaded lawmakers to turn the TRA into a part-time board. Kyle resigned her position in March, saying the move doesn't serve consumers well.

Kyle's husband is state Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, of Memphis, who declared for governor in 2010 but dropped out of the contest.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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