By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post
After more than a quarter-century of public service to his home state of Tennessee, 6th District U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D- Murfreesboro, announced his plans to retire from Congress when his current term ends in 2010.
His announcement on Monday has set off speculation about who may seek his seat in the upcoming election next year and so far, two Republicans from Rutherford County have announced their intentions to run, but Wilson County elected officials so far are shying away from the position.
“I served alongside him and I definitely wish him well in his endeavors,” said Republican State Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet about Gordon. Beavers, who represents District 17, would not comment on possibly running for Gordon’s seat, but did say that she is still running for Wilson County Mayor.
Republican State Rep. Susan Lynn of Lebanon said that Gordon had done a lot of good things but hoped that a GOP candidate would take his seat. When asked if she was that candidate, Lynn, who presently represents District 57, said she was committed to running for the State Senate in District 17 and helping out here at home.
“He served a long time and I think he’s done a good job,” said District 46 State Rep. Stratton Bone, D-Lebanon, who added that he was also not interested in Gordon’s seat.
Former State Sen. Robert Rochelle on Monday told The Wilson Post he also is not considering a campaign for Gordon’s seat.
A name that has actually floated around Washington, D.C. as a possible candidate is that of Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe.
“He was not just my congressman, but he was my friend,” Ashe said. “This is a major loss to the community. Bart Gordon has taken care of this county.”
“Right now, I’m too busy being sheriff,” Ashe said. “Law enforcement is what I’ve been about for all of my adult life.”
Gordon said, “I feel honored that the people of Middle Tennessee have allowed me to serve them for the past 25 years. Every decision I have made in Congress has been with their best interests in mind. I hope the people here at home feel that I have served them as well as their good advice and views have served me.
“When I was elected, I was the youngest member of the Tennessee congressional delegation; now, I’m one of the oldest,” Gordon said. “In fact, I have members of my staff who weren’t even born when I took office. That tells me it’s time for a new chapter.”
Gordon, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation, said he made his decision after consulting with his wife, Leslie.
“Turning 60 has led me to re-evaluate what’s next. I have an 8-year-old daughter and a wonderful wife who has a very demanding job. I am the only child of my 83-year-old mother, Margaret. They have made sacrifices to allow me to do what I love by serving in Congress, and now it’s my turn,” Gordon said.
His constituents have repeatedly recognized Gordon’s efforts by sending him back to the U.S. Capitol to represent them – in 13 elections, Gordon has never lost any of the 15 counties in his district. In recent years, he has won re-election handily, earning 64 percent of the vote in 2004, 67 percent in 2006, and 74 percent in 2008.
The son of a farmer and schoolteacher, Gordon was named chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee in 2007, becoming Tennessee’s first full committee chairman in 30 years. The congressman said he is grateful for the opportunity it presented to author landmark legislation such as the America COMPETES Act, but his goals in Congress have always remained the same.
“My dream for kids growing up in Middle Tennessee is the same that I have for my daughter, Peyton – for them to grow up in a safe neighborhood, get a quality education, and be able to find a good job close to home,” Gordon said. “I hope I’ve been able to make that dream more of a reality for the next generation.”
Educated in Rutherford County public schools, Gordon graduated with honors from Middle Tennessee State University in 1971 and later received his law degree from the University of Tennessee. He served in the Army Reserves from 1971-1972. Gordon is married to Leslie Peyton Gordon, who is a partner with Korn/Ferry International, and they have one daughter.
Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at email@example.com.