Sanford: Democrats need rural Tennesseans to win governor seat

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —Earlier this month, Karl Dean was literally beating a path down Interstate 40 from Nashville to Memphis, and for good reason.

Dean wants to be the first Democrat to win statewide office in Tennessee since 2006, and he knows it will take every vote he can get in the state`s two largest cities.

So just before Thanksgiving, the former mayor of Nashville was back and forth between the state capital and the Bluff City making himself known and launching a campaign headquarters in Memphis.

In addition to attending a fundraiser in Midtown, Dean addressed the Frayser Exchange Club and toured Overton High School. He also visited the church once pastored by the late civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks.

All of this is necessary, for sure, but Dean will also have to take plenty of exits off I-40 and build support in Tennessee`s less populated counties. He will have to show a genuine interest in the issues important to rural residents.

The motivation for Democratic leaning voters in Memphis and Nashville is obvious. So far, none of the Republican candidates - including Congresswoman Diane Black or state lawmakers Mae Beavers and Beth Harwell - have tried to appeal to big city voters.

Make no mistake, Republicans still have the best odds of keeping the governor`s office, but Democrats are vowing to be competitive.

They simply cannot do that with Memphis and Nashville votes alone.