As a native of the great not-too-bad state of Tennessee, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the Senate race there, which is enormously important to both parties and, at least at the moment, a dead heat.

The Dem, Harold Ford, is something of an empty suit, considerably more interested in his own greater glory than in policy or governance. His R opponent, Bob Corker, is by all accounts a moderate technocrat who’s been extremely effective as mayor of Chattanooga, a city that has transformed itself over the last few decades from an industrial backwater to a thriving, liveable urban center with one of the nation’s best affordable-housing programs and nicest waterfront parks. (See Q&A with Chattanooga urban planner Karen Hundt here.)

The Republican Party desperately needs more moderate technocrats, to slow its devolution into a coalition of maniacs and fundamentalists. The Democratic Party desperately needs fewer slick, calculating triangulators, to slow its devolution into a coalition of mush.

But then again, the country desperately needs Dem control of at least one legislative branch, to finally offer some balance of power to the increasingly insane executive branch. So.

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Anyway, given my ambivalence, it’s somewhat ironic that it may be the environmentalists who bring Corker down and help Ford win. While Corker was in office, he got into a mess for selling protected wetlands to Wal-Mart. Environmental groups filed suit. Three weeks ago, plaintiffs subpoenaed Corker to testify and provide documents. His lawyers tried to argue he shouldn’t be compelled to do so because he’s running for state office. Today, a judge rejected that argument.

So, on Oct. 20, just three weeks before Tenn. voters head to the ballot box, Corker will testify in court about screwing wetlands in favor of Wal-Mart. That’s not going to help him in such a tight race.

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