Many Tennesseans are surprised - and many are disappointed - that Dr. Bill Frist, former U.S. Senate Republican majority leader, has decided he will not run for gov-ernor of Tennessee in 2010.
If he had chosen to run, he had the pros-pect of being a rather easy winner. But his decision not to run will surely encourage a large number of both Republican and Democrat aspirants to seek to line up sup-port in a wide open field.
Dr. Frist temporarily left an outstanding medical career as a heart-lung organ trans-plant surgeon to run for the Senate. He chose to limit his length of Senate service to two six-year terms. As he left the Sen-ate with an excellent record of principled and admirable conservative service, it was expected that his political career was not over.
Dr. Frist has said, however, that he has "decided to remain a private citizen for the foreseeable future." Who can blame him? Politics takes a terrible toll on ordinary family and professional life.
Dr. Frist has been not only an outstand-ing senator, but has engaged in many admi-rable and valuable international medical activities.
His decision not to run for governor has immediately encouraged many who might like to run.
Of special interest in gubernatorial considerations are two local political figures, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and state Sen. Andy Berke.
Congressman Wamp wasted no time after Dr. Frist's decision in announcing he is a candidate for governor.
Other notable Republican gubernatorial possibilities are Shelby County (Memphis) District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, who announced his candidacy Sunday, and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, who said, "Stay tuned." There likely will be others.
Among Democrats mentioned as possible candidates for governor, in addition to Sen. Berke, is former state House of Representatives Majority Leader Kim McMillan, of Clarksville. She said she was "going to be in regardless of whether Frist was or not." Also considered as possible Democrat gubernatorial candidates are U.S. Rep. Lin-coln Davis, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Doug Horne and Nashville busi-nessman Andrew Byrd.
With two-term Democrat Gov. Phil Bredesen precluded by law from another term, several other individuals with political ambitions surely will be inspired by Dr. Frist's no-run decision to measure their possibilities for gathering political and financial support for the gubernatorial showdown next year.