Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ford Stumps At Bessie Smith Event In Chattanooga

U.S. Senate hopefuls Bob Corker and Harold Ford Jr. both navigated the crowds of the Bessie Smith Strut on Monday evening, shaking hands and seeking votes for the upcoming race.

The Corker and Ford campaigns were among several with a presence at the annual event. Unlike the rest of the Riverbend Festival, the Bessie Smith Strut is a free, nongated event, and anyone may come and go, said Chip Baker, executive director of the Friends of the Festival.

However, during the other eight days of Riverbend, when the festival takes place on the waterfront, Mr. Baker said political campaigns are not allowed to set up booths inside the gates. He said politicians or campaign workers are allowed to distribute material outside the festival’s leased space, which extends a block past the gates.

Mr. Corker, former Chattanooga mayor, and former U.S. Reps. Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant, both R-Tenn., are the three well-known Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who is not running for another term.

The winner of the Aug. 3 GOP primary is expected to face Democratic Rep. Ford, a Memphis congressman, on Nov. 7. Just days after the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, Mr. Corker called the news a "good sign" that shows progress is taking place in Iraq.

"Obviously there’s still a lot of tough work to do," he said.

Rep. Ford said that while the terrorist’s death is a clear positive that demonstrates the military’s ongoing resolve, policy could be handled better in the war-torn nation.

"There’s still a lot of improvement that needs to be made there," he said.

Jennifer Coxe, campaign manager for Mr. Hilleary, and Andrew Shulman, spokesman for Mr. Bryant’s campaign, both said their candidates did not appear at the Strut because they were campaigning in Upper East Tennessee on Monday.

Both Ms. Coxe and Mr. Shulman noted that their candidates appeared on a radio show forum Monday that Mr. Corker declined to attend.

Mr. Corker said he already has done a long interview with Timothy Hill, host of the "Good Morning Tri-Cities" show. He said he has taken part in many forums across the state and has been "tremendously accessible."

All three Republican candidates have committed to a forum next week to be hosted by Nashville radio host Steve Gill.

Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press