Millionaire Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball said Wednesday he will seek the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Lamar Alexander, making term limits a central theme of the campaign.
Ball, 64, becomes the second Knoxville lawyer to declare as a U.S. Senate candidate. Attorney Terry Adams, who had announced his candidacy earlier, said he was “a little bit surprised” by Ball’s entry into the race. Larry Crim of Nashville is also running for the nomination.
“The more the merrier,” Adams said, adding Ball’s candidacy will not impact his own plans. “I think the process works best when there are candidates and a campaign. It’s good for the process.”
Alexander, meanwhile, is opposed by state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, in the Republican primary.
Ball said in a telephone interview that he picked up a qualifying petition Wednesday and will file it soon, planning to devote full time to the campaign starting in March.
Ball, who has a national reputation for success representing plaintiffs in successful lawsuits with multi-million dollar awards, said he anticipates self-financing his campaign to some extent. He declined to give a figure.
Ball said he had started planning for the race well over a year ago, but shelved his plans last summer after a routine physical checkup indicated possible heart problems related to open-heart surgery undergone in 1995. Recently, however, a new round of tests resulted in doctors giving him “a green light” to proceed with a campaign, Ball said.
Ball said he is running because “this country is broken” and a major reason is that its leaders are “professional politicians” rather than “citizen legislators.”
“The Harry Reeds, the Nancy Pelosis and the Lamar Alexanders need to go home and let other people do this,” he said. “At the end of the day, one thing I’d like to leave the people of Tennessee and of this country would be term limits.”
Alexander, a former governor, is seeking his third six-year term in the Senate.
Ball said he envisions, as a senator, going to each of his colleagues individually with a video camera and asking if they support term limits. Most publicly support the idea, but then never follow through with launching the necessary constitutional amendment, he said, but armed with the video recordings, “then we’d see how they’d vote.”
Ball also said he believes corporations, unions and political action committees should be blocked from contributing to political campaigns with only “real people and I don’t believe corporations are people” making donations.
The attorney said he would characterize himself as a “Blue Dog Democrat,” a term used by more conservative members of the party in Congress. Ball cited former U.S. Rep. John Tanner of Union City as an example.
Ball said he does not know Adams, but “I’m sure he’s a nice gentleman.” He talked with state Democratic leaders early last year, including state party Chairman Roy Herron, about entering the race but has not communicated with them since being sidelined by the potential medical problem, he said.
Two former party chairmen, Bob Tuke and Chip Forrester, have endorsed Adams and Herron has offered supportive comments — interpreted by Crim as an endorsement that Crime says broke party rules. Herron says his remarks should not be interpreted as an endorsement.