1. As noted in a previous post, last Thursday primary voters in Tennessee’s 7th State Senate District voted against Stacey Campfield. At Slate, David Weigel has a brief post bidding farewell to “a Click-Friendly, Anti-Gay, Holocaust-Trolling Republican State Legislator.”
2. Tennessee is a very red state, and it makes sense that, come primary season, most voters choose to vote in the Republican primary. (The state has open primaries; you just have to pick one or the other when you enter the polling station.) Also, I suppose it probably makes a certain amount of strategic sense for the state Democratic party to focus on the handful of races where they are truly competitive and not waste resources on long-shot campaigns — which, at the moment, includes the governor’s race.
But the upshot of the establishment Democrats effectively conceding the race for governor is that they wind up with candidates like Charles Brown.
They did it again. On Thursday, Tennessee Democrats picked a statewide candidate with zero political experience. His campaign platform is based on sending incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to the electric chair. Charlie Brown, a retired engineer from Oakdale whose name is misspelled on his own Facebook page, may owe his victory in the gubernatorial primary to appearing as the first name on the ballot.
And from a profile in Slate:
Brown didn’t campaign in a typical way. He didn’t go to banquets or barbecues. He didn’t send mailers, or pay for TV ads. He said he didn’t raise any money at all, though he did solicit donations. And he hadn’t even talked to the people who lived nearest to him. Instead, he told me that he sent a letter to the editor of nearly every paper in the state, a short missive full of misspellings that ended with the plea: “Please join The NRA.” Few publications actually ran the letter, which began with him saying that he “would like to strap [Gov. Haslam’s] butt to the [electric] chair and give him about half the jolt.” He also said that if he won “we will have hog hunting again.”
Brown’s main source of votes, he told me, was a club he belonged to. The Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association may not seem like the world’s best resource for a politician hungry for votes, but Brown was quick to correct me. “We’ve got 18,000 members,” he said. One of them, who he says he met at a squirrel hunt in Indiana, had even put an ad in a paper in support of Brown’s candidacy.
Since few papers printed the letter, few voters got a chance to read about Brown’s stance on the issues. He gave me three definitive policy statements. The first: He wants to put Bibles back in public schools. “I’m not a preacher, don’t get me wrong. But the Bible says to beckon little children to come to me,” he said. The second: Raise the state-wide speed limit to 80 miles per hour. “If I can,” he hedged. “My state representative told me I could.” And the third: Use his salary to help out his fellow hunters. “I’m wanting to buy some big deers and bring ’em in here and do away with our small buck deers. Buy some big buck deers and turn ’em loose.”
From a distance, Brown would seem like an easy man to parody. He’s not. During our hourlong conversation, he brought up a number of issues that made him sound more like a concerned citizen than a Southern stereotype. Brown said he had been in a union all his life, and was dismayed at the way his home state treated organized labor, including groups representing teachers and prison guards. He thought that the clear-cutting undertaken by the state’s wildlife resources agency was putting that same wildlife in danger. And he brought up a number of potential scandals that he saw as disqualifying for Bill Haslam, including what he saw as a suspiciously lucrative land deal for a friend of the governor’s. …
OK, so “Charlie” Brown is not as bad as Mark Clayton. But I have to believe that Tennessee Democrats could do better, if they wanted to do so.
3. Today on NPR’s Fresh Air, journalist Jonathan Weisman was talking about the dysfunction of the current Congress. At one point, interviewer Dave Davies asked for examples of members of Congress who are willing to “take a political risk” and work with members of the opposite party, and I was surprised when Weisman named Tennessee Senator Bob Corker as an example:
DAVIES: I’m sure there are a lot of people who, in private conversations, feel very frustrated with the way things are. But I always draw a distinction between someone who’ll say something in private and someone who will take a political risk by opposing their party leadership and reaching across the aisle. Are people doing that? Feel free to name some names. Give us somebody we should be encouraged to know is in Congress.
WEISMAN: Look at Senator Bob Corker. He’s a Republican of Tennessee. Tennessee obviously has a tradition, actually, of having lawmakers who are dealmakers. But it also has a strong conservative Tea Party wing as well. Bob Corker, just weeks ago, went to the Senate floor with a Democrat, a liberal Democrat, Chris Murphy of the Connecticut, and proposed raising the gas tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund and said, look. We cannot deal with the crumbling infrastructure of our country on the amount of money that is being generated by the current gas tax because our cars are more efficient, the demands of an aging infrastructure are raising – are rising. We need to do something. It took a lot for Bob Corker to propose raising the gas tax. And, ironically, a whole lot of Democrats ran screaming from the room just as Republicans did.
Weisman also discusses Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and Maine Senator Angus King as examples of people in Congress who are willing to “reach across the aisle” on some matters at least.