August 3, 2006

Tennessee picks nominees to vie for Frist’s seat

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Tennessee Republicans
chose a well-financed former mayor on Thursday to face off
against a well-known black Democrat bidding to take back the
U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Bill Frist.

The fight to succeed Senate Majority Leader Frist could be
crucial in determining whether Republicans maintain control of
the Senate or if Democrats pick up the six seats needed to
become the majority.

Frist, who endorsed no one in the three-way Republican
primary, is weighing a run for the U.S. presidency.

The bitter contest for the Republican nomination, won by
the former mayor of Chattanooga and real estate millionaire Bob
Corker over two conservative former congressmen, boded well for
Democratic primary winner Harold Ford, Jr., a congressman from
the Memphis area who faced no serious primary opposition.

Should Ford win in November, he would become the first
Democrat elected senator from Tennessee in 16 years, and the
first black elected to the Senate in a southern U.S. state
since post-Civil War Reconstruction.

The telegenic Ford, a moderate opposed to gun control and
supportive of public displays of the Ten Commandments, is the
scion of the famous Tennessee Ford political family. However,
family legal troubles could cloud his candidacy.

The trial on federal corruption charges of his uncle, State
Sen. John Ford, was postponed from October until next year,
sparing the younger Ford some potential embarrassment.

The candidate's aunt, Ophelia Ford, was winning her state
Senate primary on Thursday, but she was ousted from her seat in
the legislature amid allegations of vote fraud, although her
campaign was not implicated.

Harold Ford, Sr., who spent two decades in Congress, was
acquitted of bank fraud charges in 1993.

Corker, 53, has limited experience but raised nearly $9
million for the primary, including $2 million of his own money,
which he used in the campaign's final weeks to attack his
rivals, accusing them of being ineffective congressmen.

Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant appeared to split the
conservative Republican vote and each conceded to Corker, whom
they accused of being a closet liberal on issues such as
abortion rights.

Bryant had helped manage the 1998 impeachment of
then-President Bill Clinton. Clinton appeared with Ford at his
victory party.