Berke downplays notion of running for governor

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tells the Times-Free Press he’s really focused on his current job and has no plans to run for governor in 2018, as recently suggested by the state Senate’s top two Democrats.

“It’s always very flattering when someone says a nice thing about you. That being said, I wake up every day to better help the people of Chattanooga,” Berke said.

He said he’s got no exploratory committee or plans for the governor’s seat — and he’s not even preparing yet for a second term as mayor. His term ends in 2017.

“I’m just trying to do the job that I was elected to do for Chattanooga,” he said.

Berke’s local campaign finance records show he hasn’t raised any money from January 2014 to July 15 this year. But he has spent $43,200 with Global Strategy Group, a New York-based polling, marketing and public relations firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Hartford, Conn., Denver and Los Angeles.

Berke said his “campaign conducts various activities” but did not divulge what services the payments bought.

…Vanderbilt political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer says there’s merit in what Yarbro and Harris suggest.

Recent history shows successful metro mayors in Tennessee have been the picks for the governor’s mansion and have won statewide races.

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen was mayor of Nashville before taking the state’s top seat. And Republican Gov. Bill Haslam was previously mayor of Knoxville. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, served as Chattanooga’s mayor before he was elected to the Senate.

“It’s been the road to political success in this state for the past couple of years. It’s certainly been the stepping-stone to being elected statewide,” Oppenheimer said.

…And, if Republicans select an ultraconservative candidate for the governor’s mansion, moderates and swing voters may go for a Democrat in the general election.

Also, Republicans and Democrats have traded the job in two-term stints since former Republican Gov. Lamar Alexander held the post from 1979 to 1987. Alexander is now Tennessee’s senior U.S. senator. Democrat Ned McWherter held the job for two terms after him, followed by two-term Republican Gov. Don Sundquist. Bredesen and Haslam followed.