Dems pin gubernatorial hopes on former mayor, possibly House leader

L to R: Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – While Tennessee has not had a Democrat in the governor’s office since 2011 when Phil Bredesen left office, another Nashville mayor wants to run, but he may be joined by a top Democrat already at the state capitol.

Both Karl Dean, who is only announced major Democratic candidate, and House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh, who is “leaning toward it,” spoke at the Tennessee Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner last Friday evening in Nashville.

“You want someone who is pragmatic and who talks about the issues which matter to Tennesseans,” the former mayor told News 2. “Those issues are schools and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Dean was asked about getting as well-known in east and west Tennessee as he is in middle Tennessee, where he’s often credited with laying the foundation for the city’s current boom.

“When you get outside of Middle Tennessee, clearly I have to build up my name recognition, but you introduce yourself as the former mayor of Nashville,” added Dean. “And people like Nashville. They love Nashville, and they have heard a lot of good things about Nashville, so that is an open door.”

Fitzhugh, who walked in moments after we finished speaking to Dean, gave a quick greeting to his would be opponent before embracing a potential voter.

“I am just not quite ready to announce,” Fitzhugh told News 2. “I have said I am learning but want to get a few more ducks in a row before making a decision one way or another.”

Fitzhugh, who leads the Democrats who make up barely a quarter of the Tennessee House, says there are rumblings in rural areas that bode well for people like him.

“There’s a perceptible difference in feeling, difference in numbers at some of the smaller counties. Out in the rural areas where have had 10 or 15 people, they now have 40 or 50 people.” said Rep. Fitzhugh.

He did not give a timetable on his decision, but it could happen any day.

Three candidates have announced for the Republican nomination for governor, while another four or five may be getting in the race soon.

All of them will be speaking Thursday at the Republican Reagan Day Dinner in Rutherford County.