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Alexander Announces First Round of Democrat, Independent Supporters

Press release from the Campaign for Lamar Alexander for U.S. Senate; August 10, 2014:

First round of Democrats and Independents includes former Congressman John Tanner, seven former or current mayors, former UT football Coach Johnny Majors, an Olympic Gold Medalist and numerous civic and political leaders from across the state

NASHVILLE – The Alexander for Senate campaign today announced the first round of “Tennesseans for Alexander,” a list of Democrats and Independents statewide who are supporting Lamar Alexander’s re-election to the U.S. Senate this fall.

“Every time I’ve run for office I’ve done my best to earn the support of Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans, because it is my job to represent all Tennesseans once I am elected,” Alexander said. “My goal is to get results, and that means working with people who know how to help solve problems for Tennessee and for our country.”

During his 2008 re-election campaign, Alexander announced two rounds of “Tennesseans for Alexander,” totaling more than 50 members. This year’s first round includes 30 members.

Former Congressman John Tanner, a Democrat who represented the 8th Congressional District from 1989 to 2011 and was in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1976 to 1988, joined the group this year. Tanner said he is supporting Alexander after years of working together on roads, the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority and other issues.

“There are times in this business when friendships and loyalties should be more important than politics, and this is one of those times,” Tanner said. “Lamar Alexander has always been a friend and loyal to my old district, helping us do everything we needed to do to be successful and bring jobs to rural West Tennessee.”

This year’s list is geographically balanced across East, Middle and West Tennessee and also includes seven current or former mayors, an Olympic gold medalist, former University of Tennessee Coach Johnny Majors and numerous civic and political leaders. The list includes:

East Tennessee

  • Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan
  • Etta Clark, Eastman executive from Kingsport
  • Jim Hall of Chattanooga, aide to former Gov. Ned McWherter and chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration
  • Jack Fishman, Morristown-based business man, civic leader and newspaper publisher
  • Former University of Tennessee President Joe Johnson
  • Former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey
  • Johnny Majors, former University of Tennessee football coach
  • Former State Senator Carl Moore of Bristol
  • Former Knox County Mayor Tommy Schumpert

Middle Tennessee

  • Steve Bogard, Nashville songwriter
  • Dave Cooley, deputy and chief of staff to former Gov. Phil Bredesen
  • Aubrey Harwell, prominent Nashville attorney
  • State Senator Doug Henry, longest-serving member of the Tennessee General Assembly
  • Patsy Mathews, political activist and widow of former U.S. Senator Harlan Mathews
  • Linda Peak Schacht, Nashville university professor and former aide to President Jimmy Carter and former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd
  • James Pratt, former staffer to former U.S. Senator Jim Sasser
  • Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell
  • Fate Thomas, Jr. of Nashville, who recently resurrected the Sure Shot Rabbit Hunter’s Supper, a gathering for Middle Tennessee politicians founded by his father, the late Sheriff Fate Thomas
  • Anna Windrow, Nashville business woman, former aide to former Lt. Gov. Frank Gorrell, former Senator Jim Sasser and former Gov. Phil Bredesen
  • Emily Wiseman, former executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging

West Tennessee

  • Laura Adams, executive director of Shelby Farms Park
  • Former State Supreme Court Judge George Brown, the first African American to serve on the court, appointed by then-Gov. Alexander
  • Brenda Duckett, Memphis business woman and community education activist
  • Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist
  • Bishop William Graves of Memphis, former senior bishop of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and former member of the Tennessee Valley Authority board
  • Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton
  • Cato Johnson, Memphis hospital executive
  • Former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris
  • Rochelle Stevens, Memphis business woman and Olympic gold medalist
  • Former Congressman John Tanner

The Alexander campaign is chaired by Congressman Jimmy Duncan, with co-chairmen Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell, as well as Congressmen Blackburn, Roe, Black, Fincher, and Fleischmann.

The campaign’s Honorary Co-Chairmen include former U.S. Senators Howard Baker (1925-2014), Bill Brock, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, as well as former Governors Winfield Dunn and Don Sundquist.
Serving as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Statewide Committee to Elect Lamar Alexander are all 13 living former state Republican Party chairs.

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News

Larger than Life

Former President Bill Clinton probably summed up the way most people felt about Gov. Ned Ray McWherter in a memorial service Saturday at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville.

“Whenever I talked to him, he made me feel good,” Clinton said. “I was kind of excitable. He would calm me down. If I was low, he would lift me up.”

There were moments of laughter and moments of tears in the service, but above all there was an unmistakable swell of love for McWherter, who died on Monday at age 80.

The service Saturday drew a power-packed line-up of state dignitaries, but the message was on the compassion in the man who looked after people who lacked power or wealth or fame. A separate service is scheduled for Sunday in Dresden, McWherter’s hometown.

McWherter served Tennessee as governor 1987-95, and there were frequent references Saturday to his skillful days as speaker of the House for 14 years before becoming governor.

Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, who sat side-by-side during the service, each spoke of McWherter’s connection to ordinary people and his care for those who, like himself, came from humble beginnings in a rural part of the state. Descriptions of life in Weakley County were frequent throughout the ceremony.

The gathering of political dignitaries — past and present, Democratic and Republican — included Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, former U.S. Sens. Howard Baker, Jim Sasser and Harlan Mathews and former governors Phil Bredesen, Don Sundquist and Winfield Dunn.

McWherter was a Democrat, but on Saturday there was little mention of political parties.

Mike McWherter, his son, who was the Democratic nominee in the race last year against Haslam, gave a eulogy and began by picking up a gavel from a small table in front of the podium and banging it. He recalled how his father used to let him do that when he was speaker.

Gore picked up on the small-town theme quickly, noting that references to McWherter being born in tiny Palmersville instead should be described as “greater Palmersville.”

“That little community was something that shaped Ned profoundly,” Gore said. “He told stories about it all through his political campaigns. He said, ‘I played with a little white pig until I was 18. It was the only toy I had.’

“The Memphis Commercial Appeal said if that story wasn’t exactly true at least it was genuine.”

Gore made a point to mention the presence of legislators in the auditorium, including Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, who looked up to McWherter.

“There is a large family of people, especially in the Legislature — Speaker Naifeh and so many others — who really felt like family to Ned McWherter, and to all of you we are here in support of those ties and to honor what he meant to you and what you meant to him,” Gore said.

Clinton described how McWherter nudged Clinton and Gore to get together for the presidential ticket that won in 1992. Gore had just decided not to run for the White House.

Clinton recalled that McWherter said, “If Albert had run, he would have beat you. But you’re my neighbor, and I like you, and I will be for you.”

Clinton said McWherter told him, “I’m telling you, you would be a good team. He’s smarter than you are. He knows more about everything than you do, and your line of B.S. is better than his.”

Clinton also joked about his first impression of McWherter, who was as hefty physically as politically.

“I saw that body, and I thought, my God, the Grand Ole Opry’s got its very own Buddha,” Clinton said.

But Clinton quickly learned about McWherter’s political persuasiveness.

“The first time I met Ned Ray McWherter, after 30 seconds of that aw-shucks routine, I wanted to reach in my back pocket and make sure my billfold was still there. After a minute, I was ready to give him my billfold,” Clinton said.

Clinton called McWherter a “fabulous politician” and noted that McWherter had helped him carry Tennessee in presidential elections in 1992 and 1996 and supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 when she won the state’s primary. Clinton said that in his family McWherter could do no wrong.

The service included music from the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Former McWherter aide Billy Stair spoke movingly about McWherter’s work and drew heavily from the unveiling of a statue of McWherter in Dresden last October. The program Saturday included remarks from former McWherter chief of staff David Gregory.

At times, especially before the service, the auditorium had much the feel of a family reunion.

“He saw politics as a profession with a purpose,” Gore said. “He wasn’t in it for some ideology or philosophy. He was in it to help the people who were in the kind of circumstances he was in when he was growing up.”

Clinton described McWherter out of friendship, not just as a political colleague.

“Above all, he was a friend,” Clinton said. “Above all, to the people of Tennessee he was a friend. We’re here laughing and wanting to cry because we know he was special. He was great because he didn’t think the Democrats were right all the time, and he knew Republicans couldn’t be wrong all the time.”

Clinton closed on a note of the season.

“I think God knew what he was doing when he called him home in the springtime,” Clinton said. “In the springtime, we’re all reminded of how beautiful our earth is and how great it smells and how one more time we’ve been invited to make a new beginning.

“I hope the young people of Tennessee will wind up making enough new beginnings, so we’ll have more Ned Ray McWherters. He graced us in a way few people have, not just because of all he did, but because he was our friend.”