‘Palpable Awkwardness’ Between Berke and Aspiring Democratic Senate Successor

It’s not every day that a legislator refuses to endorse his party’s nominee for the seat he’s leaving, observes Chris Carroll.
But that’s the source of palpable awkwardness between Chattanooga mayoral candidate and state Sen. Andy Berke and the Democratic nominee for Berke’s 10th District seat, City Councilman Andraé McGary.
“People are coming up asking me, ‘Andraé, does Andy support you?'” McGary said Friday. “I have to tell them honestly and realistically, ‘I don’t know. I really don’t know.'”
McGary, 33, said he needs Berke’s reputation and vast fundraising network behind him as he battles against Republican Todd Gardenhire in a recently redrawn, conservative-leaning district.
“Andraé, I’m sure, is out there trying to establish his own identity,” Berke, 44, said Thursday. “I’m going to vote for him.”
But the Chattanooga attorney has no plans for the public show of affection McGary wants.
Berke’s political allies said he has his reasons, mostly involving the transition from an increasingly red vs. blue Legislature to the nonpartisan environment he must conquer to succeed Mayor Ron Littlefield in March city elections.
“It would probably make the Gardenhire people less inclined to support Andy,” said Councilman Jack Benson, who knows Berke and McGary well.

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