We didn't get to do much mingling because we were hanging around the VIP reception waiting to be spirited away to a secure and undisclosed location for our talk with James Carville. But in the brief few minutes we had we spotted just about every prominent local Democrat. And Frank Cagle.
Report after the jump...
Carville holding court at the VIP reception
Crime fighters Randy and Randy and Mrs. Randy (other Randys)
Good turnout. We estimated around 1,000. Today's paper said over 800.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Gray Sasser
The evening kicked off with a great speech by Madeline Rogero on "Give 'em Hell" Harry Truman. She talked about his tough battle with the Dixiecrats and Republicans for the White House and his accomplishments on civil rights. An interesting bit of trivia: the polls were so wrong ("Dewey Defeats Truman!") because they were being conducted by phone, and much of Truman's populist base didn't own phones. (A similar problem exists today with more people using cell phones which don't get included in polls.) A quote I liked was that "it's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets credit."
Next, the Knox County Democratic Party recognized Billie Jean Nicodemus for her service during WWII. She served as a WAC in the South Pacific and helped break the Japanese codes. Ms. Nicodemus is the mother of Barbara Nicodemus who is running for the Tennessee House in the 16th District. (We just happened to be sitting at their table.)
Next up was Bob Tuke, candidate for United States Senate. Some of his remarks:
• These are important times and that's why so many people were here at the dinner, because they understand how critical it is to elect Democrats this year.
• When I get to Washington D.C. I'm sure as heck not going to let Washington change me the way it changed Lamar Alexander.
• People tell me they are tired of out of control economic policies. The problems we are having right now are not the result of some economic cycle, but rather the result of "utter incompetence" at the top of the chain in the White House.
• It is irresponsible to be using our military the way it is being used now. We shouldn't have our military in Iraq presiding over an ethnic civil war. The war was started on false pretenses and now it's time to end it honorably and bring our troops home.
• Once that's solved, we have many other problems to tackle. I know Lamar Alexander and he's a good man and a fine piano player, but it's time for Tennessee to have a U.S. Senator who looks out for Tennesseans instead of Washington Republicans.
• America should be looked up to around the world and that's not where we find ourselves today. The next President, who will be a Democrat, will need a strong Senate to support the policies of Democrats.
• People who think Alexander is too entrenched and has too much money are wrong. We've seen some big upsets, most recently in Northern Mississippi, and Republicans are running scared.
Next up was Mike Padgett, also running for United States Senate. Some of his remarks:
• Been on the road for the month of March, April, and May, and has visited 67 of the 95 counties. Will visit all 95 counties by the end of this month.
• It's special to be here to speak in honor of Harry Truman, one of my political heroes and a real inspiration. He started out his career in local county government. In 1934 he managed, without much campaign money, to defeat a Missouri incumbent Republican for Senator.
• I'm going to the hills and the hollows of Tennessee where Lamar Alexander can't find time to go, where people have problems that don't seem to cross his mind. A guy in Centerville told me that Lamar couldn't find Hickman County with a GPS.
• I'm fed up and I'm ready to fight. Will fight for tax laws that reward companies that create jobs and penalize companies that outsource them. Will fight to end NCLB and stop teaching kids how to take tests and use the money to teach skills they need to get in college. Will fight for working people who waited years for Republicans to raise the minimum wage. Fed up with oil company tax cuts, tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy instead of middle class. Will fight for higher minimum wage, for energy policy to relieve dependence on foreign oil, for middle class tax cuts, for smart spending to wipe out the budget deficit. Will fight hard to bring our heroes home from Iraq now and to fix problems here in the Unite States and not Baghdad.
• We will not let Bush, McCain, and Sen. Alexander rob our young people of their hopes and dreams.
Next up was keynote speaker James Carville. He was animated and entertaining. Here are some zingers and quotable quotes:
• (Accepting a U.T. jersey with Peyton Manning's number) I will wear the jersey, but remind you that Peyton Manning is from Louisiana. He was our gift to you, and the last one you're going to get.
• Someone asked George Bush what he thought about Bob Barr running as a Libertarian. George Bush said it doesn't matter whether he eats meat or not, it's where he stands on the issues.
• The greatest candidate this year was Fred Thompson. Fred is the first candidate in the history of presidential elections to test positive for Ambien. Can't say Fred didn't believe in no child left behind, hell, he married her.
• The most important hour in this campaign is three o'clock in the morning. Everybody wants to know what they're doing at 3AM. I'm a 63 year old male and I know exactly what John McCain is doing at three o'clock in the morning. He's looking for a damn bathroom. He's not answering the phone.
• I've got some free advice for Republicans. One word: PANIC! Run! Don't take nothin' with you. Head for the hills. You didn't get away with it! And Lamar, you went to Washington, and all you cold do was say yes to Bush and no to Tennessee. And now Tennessee knows that. Run! Head for the hedges! Don't take nothin' just go. Panic! Everywhere!
• This primary wasn't bad for the party. We're going to be alright, don't worry. I'd rather be in the party that has two good candidates than the party that's got one bad one.
The rest of his speech was less about the primary and more about the future, about returning power back to the people, about finding strength in our worst hours, and not just stopping things from being bad but making them better.
(Apologies for the bad photos. The lighting was bad, I was far away, and other assorted excuses.)
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