Tennessee Democrats think 2014 can be good for them. They hope, at the least, that the Volunteer State will become more purple in its politics, a shift from its deep red tendencies of late.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron spoke to a gathering of local loyalists at the IBEW building off Bonny Oaks Drive last week, and he had words of encouragement.
"Hang in there," he told audience members. "It's not a quick sprint. It's a marathon."
Herron was speaking about the dominance of Republicans in recent Tennessee elections. In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took nearly 60 percent of the vote. He lost only three of the state's 95 counties, and he tied one with President Barack Obama.
It's primarily in national and statewide elections that GOP candidates dominate. Local elections are more friendly to the Democratic Party, and currently, the seven largest cities in Tennessee have Democratic mayors.
Area Democrats believe a shift would be nice, and it may even be unavoidable.
"If they would pass that Ryan [budget] plan, there wouldn't be a Republican left in Tennessee," said Dennis Patrick, who was in the audience for Herron's speech. He said Republicans are trying too hard to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.
And the current Republican-led state legislature, Patrick said, isn't much better.
"It's the stupidest thing I ever heard of, putting guns in bars," he said.
However, Hamilton County Republican Chairman Tony Sanders said Tennesseans seem pretty satisfied with the GOP's leadership.
"We're very pleased with the current majority we have. We feel we are managing the state and locally as well as it could be managed, and we're very confident in our ability to continue managing. We're looking forward and preparing for the upcoming elections," Sanders said in a telephone interview.
A challenger to longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander was also in attendance at Thursday's Democratic meeting.
Larry Crim, the only Democratic challenger to Alexander so far, said despite the incumbent's long tenure and loaded war chest, he is prepared to make a run for that seat.
"One of the assets Lamar has is that he's been in office a half-century," Crim said. "Also, one of the liabilities he has is that he's been in office a half-century." Alexander was elected to the Senate in 2002. Before that he served two terms as Tennessee governor and was U.S. education secretary from 1991-93 under President George H.W. Bush.
Crim said the road to election means more than beating one man.
"We're running against Washington," he said.
And the way to counter that, Crim and others said Thursday, is an age-old Democratic tactic.
"One vote at a time, one county at a time," Crim said. "Grassroots."
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731.