In September, Freeman was asked by the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee to find and vet candidates to replace Roy Herron as chairman of the party.
Freeman’s vetting committee includes seven members of the TNDP executive committee, three legislators, the mayors of Chattanooga and Clarksville, the two Democratic congressmen, three labor union leaders, the president of the Tennessee Young Democrats, a Nashville councilman and several former TNDP officers.
The committee marks a first step in changing how the party operates, Freeman said. They have a tall order.
Eight years ago, a Democrat sat in the governor’s mansion and worked with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and a narrow minority in the state Senate.
Democrats have steadily lost ground since Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, was elected lieutenant governor in 2007. This year the General Assembly had Republican super majorities in both houses: the Senate has 26 Republicans and seven Democrats; the House has 71 Republicans, 27 Democrats and an independent. Democrats hold two of the state’s nine congressional districts and neither of its Senate seats.
The November election looks to be another Republican trampling.
The TNDP executive committee, a group elected two by two from each of the state’s 33 Senate districts, turned to the party’s rainmaker to see if his Midas touch on fundraising would transfer to finding leadership. Freeman has recruited a group of successful Democrats to join in on the task.
Freeman says the committee is casting a wide net to find someone who can articulate a vision for the future, raise money and energize the party. Already, more than 10 Democrats have tossed their hat in the ring, and he thinks the committee will end up interviewing more than 20 during three days of meetings beginning Nov. 6.
The vetting committee will be accepting applications until Nov. 3 from candidates who have “the managerial and political talent necessary to navigate us to a renaissance. Tennessee’s Democrats and citizens deserve no less,” Freeman said.
“We have not had a lot of success in the past couple of elections,” he added, “but I think that Democrats are more engaged this year than I have seen them.”
Reach Frank Daniels III at 615-881-7039 and on Twitter @fdanielsiii.
Tennessee Democratic Party Vetting Committee
Chris Anderson, member of the TNDP State Executive Committee; Fabian Bedne, Metro Nashville council member (District 31); Mayor Andy Berke, Chattanooga; Gary Blackburn, member of the TNDP State Executive Committee; Will Cheek, member of the TNDP State Executive Committee and former TNDP chair; U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen; U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper; State Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson); State Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory); State Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville); Gale Jones-Caron, member of the TNDP State Executive Committee; Geeta McMillan, member of the TNDP State Executive Committee; Mayor Kim McMillan, Clarksville; Gary Moore, president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council; Matia Powell, president of Tennessee Young Democrats; Charles Rains, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); A.J. Starling, vice president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council; Gerard Stranch, attorney and former TNDP general counsel; Bob Tuke, former TNDP chair; Barbara Wagner, member of the TNDP State Executive Committee; Sylvia Woods, member of the TNDP State Executive Committee