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Ex-Governor’s Son Eyes Challenge to Alexander

Businessman Mike McWherter (D), the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter (D), announced this week that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider whether to challenge Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) in 2008.

“I’ve been honored to hear encouragement from Tennesseans in all parts of the state — East, Middle and West — who say they’re ready for a positive change in Washington, D.C.,” McWherter told The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. “I want to continue the dialogue on how we change the direction in our country for the future of our kids and grandkids.”

McWherter, 51, practiced law until his father was elected governor in 1986, then took over the family’s liquor distribution business in Jackson. The elder McWherter remains a popular figure in the Volunteer State, and voter goodwill toward him could boost his son’s candidacy.

But Alexander, who also served as governor and as secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, has been a fixture in Tennessee politics for ages and must be considered the heavy favorite.

Although McWherter hasn’t formally committed to entering the race — he said his decision would be “brief, but deliberate” — former state Democratic Party Chairman Bob Tuke, a Nashville lawyer who also was contemplating a Senate bid, has decided to defer to him.

“I’m going to help him,” Tuke told the paper. “I always thought that if Mike really wanted to do it, I’d step aside.”

— Josh Kurtz

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