Thursday, November 4, 2010

The ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ side of the midterm elections

     When reality finally sets in a few days after the 2010 midterm elections, the loser may wonder what might’ve gone wrong on the campaign trail and why the message didn’t resonate with voters at the polls. For the winner, it is a call to duty and a mandate from voters to make good on campaign promises.
    In either case, the midterm elections ended with a thud for losing candidates and a bounce for the winners. It also came as no surprise that the Republicans would wrest a number of seats in Democratic bastions across the country, including the governor’s seat that Democrat Phil Bredesen now occupies until January.
    After he’d won the race for governor, Knoxville mayor Bill Halsam promised he’d be the governor of all Tennesseans. “I promise you this: Whether you voted for me or not, I will be the governor of all of Tennessee,” he told an estactic crowd at his local headquarters in the Park Place Centre.
    Halsam, a Republican, turned the state from blue to red after convincingly defeating Democrat Mike McWherter, a Jackson, Tenn., businessman and the son of former Tennessee governor Ned McWherter. McWherter found himself limping all the way to the finish line long after Halsam had crossed it earlier Tuesday night.
    At last count, with all 95 counties reporting, the governor-elect had a total of 1,041,576 votes in the winner’s column compared to McWherter, who garnered 529,983 votes according to the Tennessee Department of State.
    McWherter conceded defeat after realizing that his chances of wresting the governorship from Halsam were nil and unobtainable, and pledged, for the most part, to work with the governor-elect.
    But what went wrong with McWherter’s gubernatorial bid from the onset that caused him to come up short at the polls and miss that coveted opportunity to clench the brass ring of victory?
    “A large part of it was the fact that Bill Halsam had so much money,” said Van Turner, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party. “He spread the money (around), and he was effective.”
    Although McWherter bested Halsam in Shelby County, Turner noted that McWherter’s candidacy was largely swept up in the backlash against President Barack Obama and the Democrats. The Tea Party movement, he added, was much to blame as well.
    “They (Tea Party) believe all the problems (in this country) were caused by Obama, and Tennesseans bought into it. [Now] they’re talking about repealing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and overthrowing the government.”
    Bill Giannini, chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission and former chairman of the Republican Party of Shelby County, agreed that Halsam benefited from the national mood. But contrary to most candidates, he said, “Bill kept his campaign positive.”
    Negative political advertising was horrendous on both sides, Giannini pointed out. However, “Bill always maintained the topics that he wanted to talk about as governor and it resonated with voters. Voters wanted to hear what the candidates would do (if elected).”
    And Halsam did just that and succeeded, he said.
    Now that the governor's office and the Tennessee House and Senate are in the hands of the GOP, both parties are now braced to start a new chapter in governance: The Republicans, without fail, are expected to set their own agenda, and the Democrats, henceforth, are expected to rebuild their base.
    “I’m just excited that we don’t have a lawsuit filed on us after this election,” said Giannini, referencing the lawsuit that Democrats filed against the Election Commission after the Republicans swept 10 countywide races in the Aug. 5 primary election.
    After much legal wrangling on both sides, Chancellor Arnold Goldin dismissed the lawsuit in October, in which Democrats were claiming the election results were “incurably uncertain.”
    Goldin didn’t agree.

A word to the GOP...

    Although the Republicans are basking in victory, Giannini warns them to be mindful that the outcome could be quite different during the next election. “If the Republicans don’t govern responsibly, they will be in the same shape that they were in in 2008,” he said. “The Republicans have got to realize they were given another chance to govern and reach out (to the people).”
     The “people,” in this case, are African Americans. “You can’t expect one demographics in the community to come and support you if you don’t reach out,” he said. “They got an opportunity to govern in the black community and represent the will of the people instead of the legislators.”

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