Phil Bredesen (born Philip Norman Bredesen, Jr. on November 21, 1943) is the 48th and current Governor of Tennessee. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected Governor in 2002, and was re-elected in 2006. He previously served as the fourth mayor of Nashville and Davidson County from 1991 to 1999.
Paul Bredesen was born in Oceanport, New Jersey. His parents were Norma Lucille (née Walborn) and Philip Norman Bredesen. His father, a captain in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, was stationed at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey at the time of Bredesen's birth. The family lived in various locations during Bredesen's early childhood, including Canandaigua, New York and Arlington, Massachusetts. When his parents separated in 1951, Norma moved with her two sons, Phil and his younger brother Dean (1947–2006), to her family home in Shortsville, New York, where they lived with Bredesen's maternal grandmother, a widow. Shortsville is the community Bredesen considers to be his hometown, and he lived there until he left for college. He attended the Red Jacket Central Elementary and Secondary School, located in the adjoining village of Manchester. In 1961, Bredesen entered Harvard College, where he concentrated in physics and lived in Quincy House. He received his B.A.. degree in 1967. Bredesen married Susan Cleaves in 1968, but they divorced in 1974 and had no children. In 1974, Bredesen married Andrea Conte in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, England, and the two have one son, Ben. In 1975, the family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. There Bredesen founded HealthAmerica Corp., an insurance company that eventually grew to more than 6,000 employees and was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. He sold his controlling interest in HealthAmerica in 1986, and because of the wealth he earned from his work with the company, he does not accept his gubernatorial salary.
Governor of Tennessee
Phil Bredesen entered the race and easily won the Democratic nomination. He faced Republican 4th District Congressman Van Hilleary in November. Bredesen promised to manage state government better, improve Tennessee's schools and use his experience as a managed-care executive to fix TennCare. Bredesen's reputation as a moderate Democrat was well-established (he is a member of the "good government" faction of the Nashville Democratic Party), so Hilleary's attempts to brand him as a liberal did not work.
This allowed Bredesen to garner far more support in East Tennessee than was usual for a Democrat, especially a Democrat from Nashville. In November, Bredesen narrowly defeated Hilleary with 51 percent of the vote. He did well in several East Tennessee counties where Democrats usually do not fare well except in landslides. He won Knox County, home to Knoxville, by a few hundred votes; by comparison, George W. Bush had won Knox County by over 40,000 votes. Bredesen opened the administrative budget meetings, and established new ethics rules for the executive branch. He also managed Tennessee through a fiscal crisis without raising taxes or cutting funding for education. By Bredesen’s fourth year in office, Tennessee had passed four balanced budgets, received top rankings from national bond rating agencies and raised its Rainy Day Fund to a record high. Bredesen is a supporter of capital punishment, presiding over four executions. But he commuted the death sentence for one inmate to life without parole, citing "ineffective legal counsel at his sentencing and procedural limitations on his appeals".
For much of 2005, Bredesen was considered a heavy favorite for reelection in 2006. While his poll numbers slipped for a time in mid-2005, they rebounded by early 2006. The state Republican Party concentrated its efforts on keeping the Senate seat of retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in the Republican fold. Most potential top-tier challengers to Bredesen shied away from the race. On November 7, 2006, Bredesen won re-election with 68.6% of the vote over State Senator Jim Bryson—the most lopsided victory in a gubernatorial race in Tennessee history. He also garnered more votes than any statewide candidate in Tennessee history while sweeping all 95 counties.
Viewed by many as a centrist Democrat based in the South, Bredesen was touted as a potential presidential candidate in 2008. Bredesen, however, stated no interest in joining the wide field of Democrats that sought the Democratic nomination. He did not comment on joining a Democratic ticket as Vice-President. On June 4, 2008, Governor Bredesen endorsed Barack Obama for president. Following the withdrawal of former Senator Tom Daschle as nominee for United States Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, The Atlantic correspondent Marc Ambinder claimed that Bredesen was being vetted as a possible replacement.