Republican Tracy weighing challenge to Gordon 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy said he is "strongly considering" a challenge next year against U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, who is one of several Democrats being targeted by the GOP in midterm elections.

Tracy is a Shelbyville insurance agent, former NCAA basketball referee and current chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He said in a phone interview earlier this week that he plans to make up his mind by the end of the holiday season.

"I am strongly considering it, there's no question about that," Tracy said. "I'm looking at it very closely and I've been honored and humbled by all the folks who've called me."

Gordon has represented the 6th Congressional District since 1984 and serves as chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. The district includes 15 counties that range east from Nashville's fast-growing suburbs to the Cumberland Plateau.

Gordon's office couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, but he said in a statement to The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro that his priority is representing the district in Washington.

"My philosophy hasn't changed -- if you work hard and do a good job for the people you represent, elections will take care of themselves."

Gordon and fellow Democratic Reps. John Tanner and Lincoln Davis have each already drawn Republican challengers. But none is as politically experienced as Tracy, who was first elected to the state Senate in 2004, and played in a key role in promoting Republican Pat Marsh's successful campaign to win a longtime Democratic state House seat in a special election last month.

Another candidate is Lou Ann Zelenik, who stepped down as chairwoman of the Rutherford County Republican Party to focus on her challenge to Gordon. She lost in a primary last year to current state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas.

Gordon took over the House seat vacated by Al Gore when Gore ran for the Senate. Gordon's toughest election fight came amid the Republican surge in 1994. He beat Steve Gill, a lawyer and later radio talk show host, by just 2,200 votes out of 180,000 cast in that race. He defeated Gill more comfortably in a rematch two years later, and has cruised to re-election ever since.

Gordon had $1.3 million in his campaign account as of his last federal report in September. Tracy raised and spent more than $400,000 for his re-election bid last year.

But Republicans have been emboldened by their recent successes in rural Tennessee, where voters overwhelmingly supported Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama in last year's presidential election. Obama lost Gordon's district by a 25 percentage points.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been hammering Gordon for his votes on health care, the federal stimulus package and on carbon cap-and-trade legislation.

"People are ready for a change," Tracy said. "They're ready for somebody new, with commonsense principles."