Hilleary, Albertini, and the partyWell, I promised I'd give a rundown of last night's Crowne affair from my perspective. I met two candidates-one encounter was good, the other I wasn't as pleased with. I'll start with the less pleasing one.
From a distance, I did not recognize Van Hilleary for who he was. I think it is fair to say that he looks a bit different on television. He was nice enough to walk up closer to me (when I got a good look at his face, I knew before he said his name) and introduce himself, and I told him it was a real pleasure to meet him, which was true. I may be an "activist" sort of Republican, but I am also just an average Republican voter, and I am the kind of guy Hilleary should be trying to appeal to in the August Primary. When I talk to somebody like Hilleary, I put on my "average voter" face and "average voter" talk. I told him I was concerned about those commercials he is running in the Knoxville market that ask everyone if they remember him. "They remember you lost," I said, "so I don't think that is a positive message." I wanted to see how Hilleary would react to constructive criticism from someone who is just a grassroots GOP voter-he did not react well. I did not expect him to say "you know, you're right-the ads stink, let's try something different." It might have been nice had he said "well, as a Republican, how would you have framed the ads." Instead, he then went to telling me (when I brought up the fact that we need to nominate the most conservative candidate we can so that Harold Ford, Jr. can't run to the right of whoever we put up) that he was 10-15 points ahead of Ed Bryant and 20 points ahead of Bob Corker. Not wanting to take the discussion down low, I did not say what I was thinking, which just happened to be "whose polls are you reading, man." I have seen multiple polls, none of which came from the Bryant campaign, that show Ed Bryant with a 4-6 point lead over Corker, with Hilleary running a distant third (in East Tennessee, the numbers are worse for Hilleary-here Ford beats him out in a four man race-East Tenn is the GOP heartland of the State). We ended the conversation by both mutually agreeing that the political Ford family is composed of good old fashioned Tennessee pond scum, though we did not use those harsh words. Hilleary asked for my vote, but I did not commit.
I found Hilleary to be self-congratulating and, if his remarks about the polls are what he really believes, delusional as well. I'm not saying it is bad to be confident, or even proud of your political accomplishments (Hilleary did point out that in the wake of the Sundquist catastrophe, he still nearly beat Bredesen, while everyone had been predicting a landslide for the Democrats), even to congratulate yourself at times, but when you are coming before the people of your party to ask for Primary support, and you know you are behind, you had better learn to be humble. Don't act like there isn't a problem. I don't doubt Van Hilleary's personal conservatism, but I do doubt his humility. If he should somehow come back to win the August State Primary, I hope he remembers to be humble enough to come to his opponent's supporters and ask for their help.
Mark Albertini is someone who I knew about but who few Tennesseans did or do. He came out as a GOP candidate for Governor long before Jim Bryson, but Albertini failed to win the fundraising battle early on. We all start as political novices somewhere-whether working for a campaign or being in one. In Albertini's case, he chose to begin his novitiate in a gubernatorial campaign-at least he seems new at all this. Pleaseant to talk to and solid on the issues, I found Albertini to be a genuine sort of fellow. I think he will make a good candidate, but not for Governor in 2006. After talking with him a few minutes, I couldn't help but wonder if Albertini's interests in the party, as well as the interests of the people of Chattanooga, his hometown, wouldn't be better served by having Albertini in the State House of Representatives. We need more men like Mark in the House, the place really stinks of filth and corruption, and someone with Albertini's background-Master of Divinity from Temple Baptist Seminary and a J.D. from John Marshall-could really help clean up the joint. Albertini unsuccessfully ran for the House before, back in 1994-but I think it may be time for him to try again. A House seat could be a good springboard to an eventual successful bid for the Governor's Mansion.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to talk to Rob Huddleston and his wife at length. I am glad Brian Hornback and I were able to embrace as Brothers in Conservatism and Republicanism after a Primary fight in which we were each behind different candidates for County Mayor. The only downside to the whole evening was my own fault. I mentioned yesterday that my wife's grandmother is having bypass surgery today. I went to the party last night coming straight from a family dinner at Ruth's home, and I wasn't all that hungry, so I drank but did not eat. I should have gotten something to eat at the party, because by the time I got home, I was hungry, and had to rustle up some grub at such a late hour.