Gov. Phil Bredesen issued a writ of election Thursday to fill the vacancy in the 62nd District State House of Representatives seat created by the resignation this week of State Rep. Curt Cobb of Shelbyville.
Party primaries for the seat will be held on Aug. 27, with the general election to be Oct. 13. Three potential candidates said Thursday they were considering this weekend whether to run, and one of them made that a definite "yes" by Saturday morning.
Qualifying petitions must be turned in by noon July 16.
Pat Marsh of Shelbyville, chairman of Big G Express, said Saturday morning that he would definitely be a candidate in the Republican primary, after having said Thursday that he was considering a run. Marsh said his business experience would be an asset in the position and had said Thursday that friends had urged him to run.
Marsh said he plans to pick up the qualifying petition forms this week.
Republican Barbara Blanton of Shelbyville, who ran against Cobb in 2008, said Thursday she expected to make a decision soon about whether to seek the suddenly-vacant seat again.
"We ran a real strong campaign last time," Blanton told the Times-Gazette, and she said she has been receiving calls of encouragement about a race to take the seat this time.
Cobb's brother Ty, a Shelbyville resident who works with UPS, is a possible Democratic candidate for the seat. Bedford County Deputy Administrator of Elections Andrew Robertson said Thursday afternoon that the only petition forms picked up so far had been on behalf of Ty Cobb.
"I'm considering it," said Cobb.
Curt Cobb shocked political observers statewide by resigning his State House seat.
Republicans hold a 50-49 margin in the State House, but the speaker, Kent Williams, was elected with Democratic support over the Republican caucus' chosen candidate. Williams still identifies himself as a "Carter County Republican" but has been rejected by his party's leadership for siding with the Democrats.
The narrow margin of power in the House makes the race a significant one and the fact that it will be a special election in an off-cycle year indicates that many of the state's political figures will be following it closely. Already, many political bloggers statewide have turned their attention to the race.
If Ty Cobb were elected, he would be one of two House members with that name. The other Ty Cobb is a Democrat from Columbia. There is also a Jim Cobb, a Republican from Spring City.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester thanked Curt Cobb in a news release.
"Curt has been a very dedicated servant to the people of the 62nd House District," Forrester said. "No one has worked harder in the Legislature to make sure Tennesseans can afford health care, send their children to good schools and work at the kinds of jobs we all need to help raise our families.
"Rep. Cobb always voted his convictions and tried to do what he thought was best for the people in his district. I thank Curt for all he has done to make Tennessee an enviable place to live."
Forrester promised that the Democratic party would attempt to hold on to the 62nd District seat. The district includes all of Bedford, part of Lincoln and a small part of Rutherford counties.
"You can bet we will have a good, strong candidate to run for that seat, which we as Democrats have held for decades," Forrester added.
Tennessee Right To Life issued a news release thanking Curt Cobb for his support.
"Rep. Cobb has been a consistent friend to Tennessee's unborn children and to Right to Life," said Brian Harris, the group's president. "His principled leadership and political courage will be missed by pro-life advocates at the Legislature."
TRL's news release stated that Cobb "was among a handful of Democrats who consistently voted in favor of pro-life legislative proposals, including SJR 127."
"Part of Rep. Cobb's legacy will be his unwillingness to sell out his pro-life principles for political expediency or other gain," said Harris. "Curt Cobb is a man of integrity and the citizens of Tennessee will continue to be well served by his leadership and character."