Fitzhugh launches run for Democratic gubernatorial nomination

State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh announced his candidacy for governor Sunday, setting up a contested primary with fellow Democrat Karl Dean, the former mayor of Nashville, for the party nomination. Five Republicans are seeking the GOP nomination.

Dean announced his candidacy in February and reported raising $1.2 million in July. Before his announcement – in an interview with The Tennessean — Fitzhugh said he’s not intimidated by the late start and fundraising gap.

“Not at all… It really fires you up when you start $1.2 million behind.”

From The Tennessean story:

Fitzhugh, who has made “People Matter” his campaign slogan, said he’s concerned Tennessee is falling behind and rattled off education, jobs, infrastructure and health care — particularly the expansion of Medicaid — as his top issues.

He touted his experience: 23 years as a state lawmaker representing House District 82, which includes three West Tennessee counties north of Memphis, and his deep roots in a state where he was born and raised.

“There’s some things that I think we can do better,” he said. “That’s why I’m in it.

“The problems and the situations that people in North Nashville and south Memphis find themselves in are not much different than those in Ripley, or Columbia or Etowah or other communities,” Fitzhugh said. “There are things that we can do to give people an opportunity to better their lives.”

…The 67-year-old Fitzhugh, CEO and chairman of a small bank chain in Ripley, population 8,116, had shown signs of entering the race for months and flirted with challenging Haslam in 2014.

His entry will pit the folksy, small-town Fitzhugh — a recreational hunter and one of the last remaining rural Democrats in the Tennessee state legislature — against Dean, the mayor of Nashville from 2007 to 2015, who announced his candidacy for governor in February.

…In recent years, beleaguered Tennessee Democrats have struggled to field candidates for governor and U.S. Senate as the state has gotten redder politically. But that’s not the case for 2018.

The last time the party had multiple declared viable candidates for governor was ahead of the 2010 election, when Mike McWherter, Ward Cammack, and former state Sens. Roy Herron, Jim Kyle and Kim McMillan had all entered the race for governor.

All but McWherter eventually dropped out before the primary, however. McWherter lost handily to Haslam in November of that year.

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