Tennessee Senate Race
Although the Volunteer State, as Tennessee is known, was once considered a battleground state, these days it's looking increasingly Republican. In 2000, George W. Bush famously edged out Al Gorea home-state Democratwinning the state by 4 percentage points. Democrats made some gains in 2002, putting Nashville's former mayor, Democrat Phil Bredesen, in the governor's mansion. Bush, however, only increased his lead here in 2004, winning 57 percent of the vote. Key to understanding the political dynamic here is long-term Civil War-era allegiances: "Union" counties, concentrated in the eastern section of the state, tend to vote Republican, while some "Confederate" counties in the middle and western parts of the state have historically favored Democrats. Rapidly growing suburbs ringing Nashville, in the center of the state, have tweaked that dynamic in recent years: In 2004, two thirds of voters in the four rapidly growing counties in the southern and eastern suburbs of Nashville voted for Bush. About 16 percent of state residents are African-American, according to the latest census.
l Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. or simply "Junior" on campaign buttonswas elected to the House of Representatives at age 26, only months after graduating from law school at the University of Michigan in 1996. In his five terms in the House, he has carved out a stance as an avowed moderate: He's against "partial-birth" abortions and has supported an anti-flag-burning constitutional amendment, prayer in school, and the repealing of the estate tax. In 2002, he surprised Democrats by challenging Nancy Pelosi as House leader, arguing that they needed a "clean break" from their strategies of old, which he considered too liberal. His father, more of a liberal, represented the same Memphis-based congressional district for 22 years until he stepped aside to make way for his son. Ford has emphasized his religious values on the campaign trail, filming one TV spot from the pews of his church.
l Republican Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, refers to himself as "the Real Tennessean" in the race, evidently a gibe against Ford's time living in Washington as a child and attending high school at the tony St. Albans School, which also produced Al Gore. Corker was born and raised in Chattanooga and attended the University of Tennessee. He achieved prominence in the 1980s, when a construction company he founded, Bencor, became highly successful. Later, he sold that company and became a real-estate developer. He lost a primary for Senate against current Majority Leader Bill Frist in 1994 and then was appointed the state's finance commissioner. He became the mayor of Chattanooga in 2001 and often boasts of lowering the crime rate there by 51 percent in 3 ½ years; he's also known for a $120 million downtown renovation project. Corker is an avowed conservative and supports broad gun rights as well as making the Bush administration tax cuts permanent. He has also expressed skepticism on global warming. During the campaign, he has come under criticism for selling protected lands to Wal-Mart and been accused of not holding his business interests in an entirely blind trust while in politics.