by Steven Hale
Update (Saturday, 11:00 a.m.): In an email to executive committee members early this morning, Dave Garrison announced that he has secured the support of the House Democratic caucus, and that House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner will vote for Garrison for chairman.
Late Friday afternoon, word was making its way to Pith, from multiple sources, that some among the House Democrats were attempting to shift caucus support to Garrison, and thus change Turner's vote. In a caucus vote earlier this month, House Democrats voted 14-12 in favor of directing Turner — their representative on the executive committee — to vote for Roy Herron. Now that Turner will support Garrison, we'll see if other committee members follow suit. Today's executive committee meeting starts at 1:30.
The Tennessee Democratic Party's executive committee will elect a new chairman tomorrow, thereby appointing a new captain to stand at the helm of this grounded ship.
The list of potential successors to the outgoing Chip Forrester has narrowed to two: current party treasurer Dave Garrison, and former state Sen. Roy Herron.
Garrison has big-name support, having secured endorsements from Congressman Jim Cooper and the Democratic mayors from the three biggest cities in the state — Nashville's Karl Dean, Knoxville's Madeline Rogero and Memphis' A C Wharton. On the other hand, he is seen by some in the party as fruit of the poisonous tree. (The poisonous tree in this metaphor is Chip Forrester.) He was part of the team that presided over the birth of a superminority, but he is also seen in some quarters as a typical pick for what has been a Nashville-centric party.
Since he announced his candidacy, Herron has been a likely favorite, and he claimed last week that he has secured commitments from a majority of the executive committee. He also brings 26 years of experience as a legislator to the table. But his legislative record — at times more conservative than some in the party would like — has also been been held up for criticism.
Earlier this week, The City Paper reported on Herron's leadership of the Ned McWherter Center for Rural Development, and the nonprofit's minimal output since its creation by a $900,000 grant from the state. During last year's legislative session, Herron filed three separate amendments to the state budget which would have sent $2 million to the center, months after announcing that he would not seek re-election and instead devote his energies to the McWherter Center.
Herron did not respond to calls and voicemails requesting comment at the time, and has not done so in the two days since.
The executive committee will meet tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., and we're told that there will be a candidates' forum before the vote. Reached on Friday, Garrison confirmed that he would participate. We were told almost three hours ago that Herron was out of the office, but we'll update here if we hear back.