NASHVILLE — In perhaps one of the least surprising election stories of the Tennessee gubernatorial campaign, State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh on Friday endorsed his former opponent in the Democratic primary, Karl Dean.
Dean, the former Nashville mayor who is seeking to flip the Tennessee governor’s mansion back to the Democrats, easily defeated Fitzhugh in the primary, receiving about 75 percent of the vote.
On Friday, Fitzhugh appeared with Dean at a political event in Jackson, Tenn., where he said he was going to help Dean “expand his base.”
Dean is facing Middle Tennessee businessman Bill Lee in the race to succeed Bill Haslam, who is term-limited. Lee shocked the political establishment in the Republican primary, winning over his heavily-favored opponents with relative ease.
Like Dean, Lee has the support of his primary opponents. Former Haslam cabinet member Randy Boyd and Congresswoman Diane Black, who have appeared with Lee at a “unity rally.”
Dean has challenged Lee to join him on a tour of town squares and other locations across the state to talk about issues.
“These don’t have to be formal debates, although I welcome those opportunities too,” Dean said. “It can be as simple as the two of us standing on the back of a pickup truck. All we need is a place to have a conversation and for you, the people of Tennessee, to join us.”
The governor's race between Lee and Dean is viewed by political insiders as something of a toss-up. There have not been any polls conducted since the August 2 election that pit Lee and Dean in a head-to-head matchup.
Tennessee is a deeply red state, but Dean's chances could be bolstered by Democrat enthusiasm for Phil Bredesen, the immensely popular former governor who is seeking to replace Republican Bob Corker in the U.S. Senate. Bredesen leads Republican Marsha Blackburn by 4.5 points according to a poll average maintained by Real Clear Politics.