Who will succeed Bart?

The race to replace Congressman Bart Gordon is a crowded field

It has been 25 years since the 6th Congressional District seat of Tennessee wasn't contested by an incumbent. With the retirement of Democratic Congressman Bart Gordon, one might think we'd be hearing a little bit more noise out of a race in which a combined total of 19 Democrats, Republicans and Independents are vying for the seat.

While it may be quiet, things appear to bubbling under the surface though.The once die-hard Democratic district now demographically skews Republican and is a seat that the GOP covets more than most this election cycle.

Since many Nashvillians have been and are being called upon to write checks to fund these campaigns, NashvillePost.com thought we'd give you a quick update on the race.

State Sen. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) turned heads yesterday when she announced that she had raised $444,000, a big number in a short amount of time and one that has set the bar for her GOP rivals.

Her colleague, state Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), has yet to release his campaign cash totals but tells NashvillePost.com that they are doing well and "generating a lot of excitement."

For Nashvillians, Black and Tracy are the two most recognizable names in this primary battle due to their service in the senate. In the first few days of the unofficial campaign kickoff, which began the moment Gordon said he was retiring, it looked as if things could get a bit nasty between the two.

Before Gordon declared he wasn't seeking re-election, Tracy, who represents the southern end of the district in the state senate, asked Black, who represents the northern end, to serve as his campaign treasurer. Black initially agreed, but then changed her mind saying she wanted to sit it out and not take a side.

All of that of course changed when Gordon made his announcement and Black jumped at the opportunity. In the days that followed, supporters of Tracy were churning the waters and saying that in her short tenure as campaign treasurer she had gained access to his campaign strategy. Black's people said it was general GOP information that everyone was aware of.

The sniping looked like it was going to define the early part of the campaign, but word on the street was other Republicans were able to convince both sides to run their own race and not get personal.

Seemingly left out in the cold of all this was former Rutherford County GOP chair Lou Ann Zelenik, who was the only person to actually announce she was planning on running against Gordon before he made the decision to retire.

Zelenik hails from Murfreesboro, one of the largest population centers in the district. The worst thing that could happen to her did in that Gordon retired and crowded the field. She is now feeling the squeeze of competing against Black and Tracy as well as four others.

The remaining GOP field includes retired Wartrace military officer and government employee Dave Evans, Franklin motorcycle shop owner Gary Mann, Bruce McLellan of Overton County, and Springfield bicycle shop owner Kerry Roberts.

The seven Democrats in the race include two with military ties, which will likely become the centerpieces of their campaign.

Brett Carter, a Gallatin native, is a partner in the powerhouse Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, and a captain in the Tennessee Army National Guard. He won a Bronze Star for service while serving in Iraq. Expect to see that in a campaign mailer.

Sources close to the campaign told NashvillePost.com that in the eight days since Carter declared his candidacy, he has already raised $50,000. Carter confirmed the number stating, "Yes, that is correct. I am really humbled that so many folks would have enough faith in me and our campaign to give at this level so quickly."

The other military man in the race is U.S. Marine Capt. Ben Leming from Murfreesboro. Leming is on active duty, which presents a major problem for the captain. Department of Defense regulations prohibit him from raising money, asking people for their votes, managing his own campaign or even asking people to wait to consider him over other candidates.

It's kind of hard to make your mark in a race in 100 days – the primaries are in August – when you can't do anything.

The other Democratic candidates are Henry Barry, attorney Devora Butler, Floyd Conover, retiree George Erdel and Martin Kelly.

Independent candidates are Jim Boyd, Brandon Gore, Tommy Hay, David Purcell and Stephen Sprague.