Political Notebook: Bowen drops bid to lead Democrats

Arkansas-Tennessee Live Blog

The quest for the chairmanship of the Tennessee Democratic Party became a two-man race Friday after Chattanoogan Jane Hampton Bowen dropped out of the contest.

"The race is now one between two strong Democrats," Hampton Bowen, vice president and political liaison for the Chattanooga Area Labor Council, said in a statement. "My job now becomes one of support and input toward the reinvigoration of the Democratic Party in Tennessee."

She said she's looking forward to "continuing my quest for a more inclusive party, especially for working men and women, a party that stands for the rights and ideals of both urban and rural Tennesseans."

Hampton Bowen did not endorse either of the two remaining candidates, Nashville lawyer Dave Garrison, currently party treasurer, and former state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.

Earlier this week Wade Munday, the party's former communications chair, dropped out of the contest, announced he was running for treasurer and threw his support to Garrison. Ben Smith, a Nashville attorney, withdrew days earlier, throwing his support to Herron.

The party's executive committee meets a week from Saturday to elect a replacement for Chip Forrester, the current chairman.

Garrison has the backing of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, as well Democrats serving as mayors of Tennessee's three biggest cities, A C Wharton, of Memphis; Madeline Rogero, of Knoxville; and Karl Dean, of Nashville.

Of course, endorsements don't always sway executive committee members. They ignored then-Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, four Democratic congressmen and several major party fundraisers to elect Forrester four years ago. The move infuriated the movers and shakers.

Stepping on toes

When former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush cruised into Nashville this week for an education forum, the potential 2016 presidential candidate managed to step on the toes, rhetorically speaking, of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Bush said that as governor, he enjoyed tackling big issues even that resulted in an uproar.

"If it isn't controversial or hard to do, you probably needed to add a few more bales of hay on the truck," The Associated Press quoted Bush saying. "Bigger is better."

The tendency is to focus on less ambitious things if you don't, he said.

"If you have legislation that's focused on pleasing the people who are there all the time, you're going to be worried about tweaking the workers' comp bill," Bush lectured.

That produced an ouch from Haslam, who plans to push changes in who handles claims for injured workers.

"Careful. ... Now you've gone from preaching to meddling," Haslam said laughing.