For Bob Corker the slugfest for the Republican nomination for
U.S. Senate which he won Aug. 3 was only his first hurdle on the
way to Washington. He now must battle a well-known Democratic
Both Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, and U.S. Rep. Harold
Ford Jr., D-Tenn., are running for the Senate seat being vacated
by retiring Republican and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
is ready for the fight, according to long-time associate Rep.
Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that
"Bob Corker is a heat-seeking missile."
According to his campaign Web site, Corker started a construction
company in 1978 with $8,000 and slowly built it into a multi-million
dollar development firm.
In 2001, he became the mayor of Chattanooga. During his term,
he gained popularity among constituents for expanding a downtown
revitalization plan that, according to Bob Swansbrough, a professor
at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, "enhanced tourism,
business and the movement of people back to the city."
A lawsuit was filed against him, however, over a land transaction
while he was mayor. The lawsuit, which was dismissed and then
reinstated, was filed by Sandy Kurtz, an environmental educator
in Chattanooga, and the nonprofit Tennessee Environmental Council.
They claimed that the sale of environmentally protected land to
Wal-Mart directly benefited his construction company.
Corker's campaign manager Ben Mitchell questioned the timing
of the lawsuit, telling the Memphis Commercial Appeal that the
lawsuit is "not about Bob Corker ... [it] is pure partisan
The lawsuit aside, Corker has been using his record in Chattanooga
to try to convince voters that he is a Washington outsider who
can rise above the din of partisan politics to achieve results.
His conservative credentials came under fire in the primary contest
with former U.S. Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary. They accused
Corker of supporting an income tax, something Tennessee has never
had, based on a 48-cent property tax increase he approved during
his term as mayor.
Bryant and Hilleary also criticized Corker for not agreeing to
debate them. One Bryant supporter even showed up at one of Corker's
rallies in a chicken suit.
Most damagingly though, Bryant and Hilleary accused Corker for
not being strong enough in his opposition to abortion rights,
pointing to a comment Corker made during an unsuccessful 1994
run for office in which he said that abortion "should not
be a government issue." He was eventually forced to disavow
the comment during the campaign, but doubts about his stance lingered.
Tennessee Right to Life refused to support Corker in his Senate
bid and called him "pro-abortion."
Experts are divided as to what lasting impact the bruising primary
may have on Corker's general election campaign. Many Tennesseans
appeared turned off by the highly negative nature of the campaign.
David Magee, writing in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, noted
that the Corker campaign spent money freely only to take the "proverbial
low road." "Going negative ... ultimately cause[s] more
harm than good," Magee wrote. "Most of us are tired
of such political shenanigans."
Nonetheless, Corker has had success in garnering financial support,
raising $7 million to go with the $2 million of his own money
he has poured into the race.
Corker now must reconcile how he ran in his successful primary
bid with the rest of his Senate campaign.
Corker's Democratic opponent, Ford faced no real primary challenge,
allowing him to establish himself as a candidate from the political
center. The conservative stances Corker took during his primary
race could come back to haunt him if Ford uses them to label him
as an extremist.
Corker has the advantage of being a Republican candidate for
Senate in a state where President Bush received 57 percent of
the vote in 2004. He also has consistently outpolling Ford, although
neither candidate has proved to have a significant edge over the