The recent debates featuring gubernatorial candidates Phil Bredesen
(D-Nashville) and Don Sundquist (R-Memphis) have been less than the
beneficial substantive discourse rooted in genuine disagreement that should
be provided by a contested political campaign and more of the typical
character assassination that has become the pariah of contemporary
campaigning.

But just when we thought it couldn't get any weirder or nastier, the latest
scene in this unfolding melodrama casts doubt on the limits of the
mudslinging in this campaign.

The most recent conflict involved Sundquist champion Peaches Simpkins, who
is co-chairwoman of independents and Democrats for Sundquist, and Bredesen.

Following another heated debate, in which Bredesen and Sundquist traded
their now characteristic assaults on the others' integrity, Bredesen was
reportedly involved in a heated exchange with Simpkins at the post-debate
press conference.

Eyewitness reports said that Bredesen approached Simpkins and pointed his
finger at her-point blank range. According toThe Knoxville News-
Sentinel
, Simpkins said Bredesen made the remark toward Simpkins, "You
ought to be ashamed to be a part of this. You're a better woman than this."
Simpkins, understandably, was reportedly "shocked" and disappointed with
the Bredesen comments.

But not nearly as disappointed as the Sundquist camp, which was quick to
blow up the verbal altercation and come to the aid of the damsel in
distress. According the News-Sentinel, Sundquist boosters are now
proudly dawning T-shirts depicting the slogan, "Hey, Phil, in Tennessee
real men don't push women," as well as campaign stickers that say "Phil
Pushed Peaches"-motives less than chivalric.

Bredesen certainly had no right to attack Simpkins for bipartisan support
of a candidate she feels is the better choice, but the Sundquist camp is
skirting real issues by blowing the incident out of proportion. And
instead, they are campaigning with gimmicks. Reportedly, Simpkins herself
said there was no pushing involved, and all Bredesen did was touch her with
his finger.

Sundquist is stumping using this incident, crying out that Bredesen
"accosted" one of his campaign leaders.

Unfortunately, this is but the latest chapter in the sordid saga of this
governor's race. Following Bredesen's vicious, over-used attacks on
Sundquist's alleged involvement in the Kirby Pines retirement scandal,
Sundquist is now attacking Bredesen's involvement with a Nashville-based
company being sued by a Pennsylvania hospital for embezzlement - a law suit
in which Bredesen is not named as a defendant and a company in which he is
merely a minority stock holder. Sundquist's role in the Kirby Pines affair
also seems to be minimal, if there was any involvement by Sundquist at all.
Both have decided to use these "scandals" as campaign tools.