Kim McMillan, who was struggling to keep pace financially in her bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, announced Wednesday she is running for mayor of Clarksville.
McMillan said the timing of current Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper’s decision not to run for re-election prompted her decision to seek the office in her hometown.
McMillan’s exit from the governor’s race leaves only Jackson businessman Mike McWherter in the hunt for the Democratic nomination. McWherter, who has been running for several months, is scheduled to formally announce his candidacy on Thursday on the south steps of the state Capitol.
It leaves McWherter in a battle that includes three strong contenders on the Republican side, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Congressman Zach Wamp of Chattanooga and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Blountville.
“I’ve often been told that ‘timing is everything.’ Well, I’m not sure timing is everything, but I do know it’s important,” McMillan said in a formal statement. “I also know that timing rarely consults our calendar — in fact, if often seems to disrupt our careful plans.
“I’m going to answer the call of my friends. I’m going to run for mayor of Clarksville. I believe I can make a difference as mayor of Tennessee’s 5th largest city.”
McMillan had raised a total of $454,938 in campaign contributions in the last reporting deadline, and Wednesday marked another reporting date. McWherter had raised $1.05 million in the last filing, and the Associated Press reported this week that McWherter had given his campaign another $1 million. Major Republican candidates for governor have far outpaced the Democrats in fund-raising, with Haslam raising $5.72 million, Ramsey $2.74 million and Wamp $2.63 million.
But McMillan’s gubernatorial finance director, Joe Livoti, insisted Wednesday that McMillan was still in good financial standing in the governor’s race.
“We were in postion,” Livoti said. “She had engineered a very lean gubernatoirial campaign. We had more than enough to continue running. It was well budgeted. The reason she decided to drop out was answering a call from home, if you will.”
McMillan had been a strong proponent of developments in Clarksville as she campaigned for governor, most notably the landing of Hemlock Semiconductor as a major business coup for the state, and she frequently brought up the educational ties between the Hemlock move and a program at Austin Peay State University to foster that relationship and build a workforce.
“I want to make Clarksville America’s best place to live,” McMillan said in her statement Wednesday. “Clarksville’s on the way, but there’s work to be done and I want to help do it.
“As mayor, I’ll work hard to link our academic resources, our military resources, our natural resources and our amazing workforce into a 21st century economic engine.”
The Clarksville mayor’s race had been a point of intrigue involving McMillan in recent days, as a poll surfaced asking voters about a consideration of McMillan as a mayoral candidate. The McMillan gubernatorial campaign said at the time McMillan remained committed to run for governor, not mayor. There was speculation about the intent of the poll and the reason for including McMillan in the survey. Piper announced his plans on Tuesday.
Livoti said Wednesday the McMillan campaign still had “no idea” about the nature of the poll.
In her official release on Wednesday, McMillan said that in the last days and weeks that friends had encouraged her to run for mayor in her hometown. She said some had encouraged her “gently” and some “not so gently.”
McMillan, a former majority leader in the state House of Representatives and a former aide to Gov. Phil Bredesen, is expected to face opposition in the mayor’s race in former councilman Gabe Segovia, Keith Fain and John Lockwood, as well as a fourth candidate, Michael Flood, the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle said Wednesday.
“I’ll concentrate on keeping the jobs we have and growing the jobs we need,” McMillan’s statement said. “I’m proud of our success in recruiting Hemlock Semiconductor and I’ll continue to use my relationships across the state and across America to tell the tremendous Clarksville story to companies large and small.
“And I also know this. Behind the headlines of recruitment success lays the heart of long term job growth — existing businesses. As we reach out, we’ll also reach in. As mayor, I’ll help existing businesses cut through the red tape that can stifle growth, and I’ll work hard to connect them to opportunities in every way I possibly can. I know that keeping the good jobs we have takes just as much effort as recruting the good jobs we need.”
Livoti said he learned of McMillan’s plans late Tuesday night.
“She had thought about it and wanted to let me know she was running for mayor, her hometown, which she feels strongly about,” he said. “She wanted to answer the call.”