Apr 25 2014
11:23 am

I read with interest today a letter to the KNS editor by Steve Eldridge. The letter took Democrats to task for not recruiting quality candidates to run in the May primary elections and noted the pitiful showing Democrats have made thus far in early voting. Steve is right, on both counts.

We do have quality candidates for a handful of offices:

Circuit Court (Judge Wimberly)
Chancellor (Chancellor Fansler)
Criminal Court judge (Leland Price)
Fourth Circuit (Dan Kidd and Dave Valone)
Sessions Court (George Underwood)
County Clerk (Mike Padgett) and
(Trustee (Jim Berrier)

However, it's downright deplorable (not to mention embarrassing) that we have no candidates on the ballot for the large majority of offices:

the 3rd District Commission race (which was once a Democrat leaning district and in which my brother got 47% of the vote in 2006)
the 7th District Commission seat (which Mary Lou Kanipe almost won as a Democrat in 2006)
the 10th and 11th District at-large Commission seats
Sheriff (which a Democrat - Joe Fowler - last held in '90)
County Mayor (held by a Democrat - Tom Schumpert -in 2002)
District Attorney (held by a Democrat - Randy Nichols - for the past 22 years)
Public Defender (never held by a Democrat and always held by Mark Stephens)
Register of Deeds (held by the GOP as far back as I can recall)
Criminal Court Clerk (held by GOP since at least early '80's)
Circuit Court Clerk (held by GOP since at least early '80s)
Juvenile Court Judge (held by Democrat Carey Garrett for 20+ years until his death)
four out five Sessions Court judgeships
two out of three Criminal Court Judgeships (Democrats held two out of three spots for nearly 20 years)
two out of the four Circuit Court judgeships (held by GOP since 1990 (1st and 3rd Divisions), 1982 (4th Division))
two out of the three Chancellor seats

So, in a nutshell, Steve made some good and valid points. We've got to do a better job. For months, the local party was encouraged by at least one member of the Party Executive Committee to establish a "committee" responsible for aggressively recruiting candidates for these May Primary offices. He was repeatedly advised that a committee did exist (apparently a secret one) and names were tossed around as to who was on that (secret) committee, including former Commissioner Mark Harmon and Vice Chair Cameron Brooks. In the end, the committee, whoever its members were, did a woefully inept job of securing candidates to run in the May Primary.

The Knox County Party - like the State Party - is at a crossroads. In 2016, we'll have an opportunity to have some real excitement among Tennessee Democrats when we finally, for the first time in at least 16 years, have a Presidential nominee with a fighting chance to win the state in November. We might even have a chance to have the Party's convention in this state. But there won't be many local offices up in two years (most are up this year) (the 1st, 2nd 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th District Commission seats will be on the ballot).

So, this was a missed opportunity to run candidates in every race to make the GOP at least work to win. With so many offices uncontested by Democrats in the August general election, the GOP can spend more of its efforts and resources making sure the offices Democrats are contesting get most of the GOP's attention. It would be a monumental embarrassment and a shame if a Democrat of the quality and ilk of Daryl Fansler lost his seat to this Pridemore character (the kid's only been out of law school a couple of years and may not even live here). It would be equally embarrassing if Harold Wimberly lost his seat. And what a loss if Harvard educated military veteran Leland Price, among others, didn't win his race. For whatever reason, we have put ourselves in an unenviable and unexplainable position of conceding the majority of seats in Knox County to the GOP. We have done so at the risk of severely hurting the chances of the candidates we do have in the race. While I am curious to hear about the reasons for the failure to recruit even a single candidate for these seats, it is inexcusable to leave our candidates out in the cold by allowing the GOP to concentrate on defeating them. Both Daryl Fansler and Harold Wimberly are well aware of the possibility that they may lose their seats merely because they have GOP opposition in August.

Perhaps, Democrats will get excited about and turn out in August to support the party's U.S. Senate candidates in the Primary and that excitement will help our county candidates ability to retain or win their seats.

Perhaps. But something must be done by state and local Democrats if we're going to be relevant in the future, and if we're going to give Hillary a real fighting chance here in '16. We have to do better, locally and statewide, at recruiting quality candidates. That starts with party-building, grassroots hard work. We certainly can't do that - at either level - by secretly appointing secret committees for a job they ultimately fail to do.

I'd propose - NOW - a summit of party leaders, elected officials, and candidates to sit down and map out a strategy to win these races and to win races in 2016 and beyond. Perhaps we can invite a political consultant to come in and craft a solid message for the local party and map out a plan to take back some of these seats in the next 4 years.

Just a thought. If someone has a better idea, I'll jump at it. But doing nothing is not an option.

Yellow Dog Dem.'s picture

We need change, but not this type of change

If this is the type of representation Harmon and Brooks would bring to the State party, Democrats had better think twice before electing them to be on the State party's board. If they can't recruit candidates for DA, Sheriff, most of the judgeships, commission and other county-wide offices, why should we expect them to do any better at the State level?

I'm curious about who made up this committee, who they tried to recruit to run as Democrats, and why they were turned down.

OldBoh's picture

What "secret committee"?

So let's see, you're just gonna swallow whole that hearsay bait about the "secret committee"? What purpose or candidate does that serve?

knoxrebel's picture

Ahhh, but wait . . .

Boh, are you saying there wasn't a recruitment committee? If there wasn't, that's worse than there being a secret one. If there was one, who was on it? Why all the cloak and dagger nonsense? Just say there is one or isn't one. If there is one, then Democrats involved in the party probably have a right to know who is on it. If there isn't one, then why not?

What purpose does it serve to have a secret committee? None. But then, what purpose does it serve to elect party leaders who refuse to do a job they promised to do? And it serves no candidate's purpose at all. What it does is demonstrate the ineptness of the "secret committee," whoever appointed it, and it's do-nothing members.

Yellow Dog Dem.'s picture

Most of the time I am a

Most of the time I am a skeptic, but on this occasion I was there. It wasn't hearsay to me. Period.The whole gist of this thread was to point out the lack of Democratic candidates available in the May election. For instance, there are 41 Republicans on the May ballot and 8 Democrats. I'm sure I don't have to tell you, but for others, that's a pathetic 5 to 1 margin. To sum it up, someone appointed a "secret committee" in a back room and it was a miserable failure. Someone should be held accountable.

knoxrebel's picture

Let's put this into perspective

Thanks for steering the thread back on-subject, Yellow Dog. Several of the comments appear to completely ignore the point being made by the post, attempting to re-direct the discussion toward other barely related or un-related subjects. The gist of it all is this: the KCDP dropped the ball . . . in a big way, by not doing whatever was necessary to get more Democrats on the ballot. It wasn't as if no one could see it coming. The Election Commission posts a revised public petition list every few days. At some point, if you are the party chair or vice chair or recruiting committee, you have to hit "scramble" mode or hit high gear. What appears to have happened is that the party leaders either did not care that Democrats were outnumbered 41-8 by Republicans on the ballot or couldn't do anything about it. What appears to have happened is that it either didn't matter to the party leaders that out of TWENTY-NINE (29) partisan offices on the May 6 ballot, only SEVEN (7) have Democrat candidates. Seven. The rest are surrendered to the GOP without a fight. Is this how Democrats in Knox County are going to become relevant countywide again, by conceding more than three-quarters of the offices to the GOP?

Someone needed to stand up and ask these questions. No one else is doing it. We can't just roll over, but that's what we're doing. All of this is meant to try to solve the problem that none of the party leaders want to admit exists. Will someone who has any say so at the KCDP just say, one way or the other what's going on? Will someone at least acknowledge the problem exists and address what the KCDP plans to do about it?

So, that's two people who have come forward to verify the existence of the do-nothing "secret committee." The first one told me he started asking the party leadership about recruiting candidates prior to the date candidates could pick up petitions and continued to raise the issue until the deadline approached. And no one says it didn't exist. They don't want to, since all that would do is demonstrate what a poor job of recruitment the "secret committee" did.

I know for a fact it didn't recruit Daryl Fansler, or Harold Wimberly, or Leland Price, or Mike Padgett. I don't think it recruited Dan Kidd or Dave Valone. On the other hand, it may have recruited Jim Berrier or George Underwood. I have met with Berrier at length and he is, hands-down, the most qualified of all of the Trustee candidates on the ballot.

We can't do anything about the August ballot at this point. But we can't allow this to happen again in 2016. I'm just curious about what the party leaders plan to do. From their complete failure to address the issue or suggest an alternative to my proposal, it appears they plan to do . . . nothing.

fromunderthebus's picture

Where have all the Democrats gone?

They crossed over to vote for the lesser of the evils or the moderates as you used to call them.

knoxrebel's picture

A sad commentary . . . but it can be fixed

As far as Democrats voting in the GOP Primary goes, that's unfortunately one disadvantage of not recruiting Democratic candidates to run in the Democratic Primary. The Knox County chair was quoted as being "mind-boggled" or something like that about the lack of participation in the Democratic Primary. What should she have expected? If you're not going to give Democrat voters a choice of their own candidates, most will still want to have at least a say in who is going to represent and govern them. Otherwise, they'll just stay at home. Moreover, having contested primaries is a distinct advantage all the way around, as it gives the primary candidates experience and gives Democrats a reason to get out and vote. Unfortunately, for May, Democrats have a single contested primary for a single office (4th Circuit Court).

It's disappointing to discover, after talking to dozens of well-known folks who have Democrat ties or credentials, that none of them - not a one - was asked, in-person, via phone, email, or otherwise, by anyone involved with the local party to even consider a race.

If someone - Harmon, Brooks, Haney, etc. - had discussed it with me, I'd have considered an at-large Commission seat or the Criminal Court Clerk race and I'd have been happy to self-finance either. But the fact is, few people are going to consider running if they are not asked, especially if they cannot expect the support of the Democratic Party, e.g., volunteers, seed-money, organizational help. It's a mighty sad commentary about the state of the Party, locally and across the state. And the simple, undisputed fact that no one from the local party has piped up here to offer any comment, much less an explanation, speaks volumes about where we are today.

Folks, we have to head in another direction.

Hildegard's picture

Well said. I voted in the R

Well said. I voted in the R primary for the umpteenth consecutive time b/c it's stupid to vote in a primary with zero-to-one nominee in each slot.

knoxrebel's picture

And my 86 year old mother,

And my 86 year old mother, who has NEVER voted for a Republican since she started voting in 1952, told me today she might do the same. It's a sickening state of affairs. And it isn't getting better, it's getting worse. Just take a look at the county elections since 2008. I care very much who our Mayor is, who our Sheriff is, who our DA is, and so on. But at least the Republicans offer the voters some choices. We offer them a pathetically few two choices in this election, to fill Bill Swann's seat, that's it.

My mom is not an isolated occurrence. She's a die-hard Democrat who is sick and tired of the job the Democratic Party has done to provide her with choices. I'm sure there are hundreds, or thousands more just like her.

Up Goose Creek's picture


You'll get called a homosexual, atheist, communist, Obamaite*, gun grabbing, anti-white, welfare-giving, socialist tree hugging God-hater, when all you want to do is make sure the county can afford the services it offers in a fair and just manner.

You know, I ran for office once and never was called any of those things. Most voters were just thrilled to see a Dem in our district and some said they thought they were the only one. I was told by party officials that 36% of the district was Democratic and 36% turned out to vote for me so there you have it.

I did get encouraged to run by Dem officials, I guess you could say I was recruited, more accurately I was the only person in the room who had the time and resources to run. I got a LOT of support from the Dems, both old and new guard, though some of the new guard lost interest when I didn't come out against a controversial project. What could I do, about 80% of the prople I talked to door to door were in favor at the time and I believe in representative democracy.

* if anyone had called me an Obamaite I should look them up for being remarkably preescient. But one of my motivations was i wanted good health insurance so they would have been right. My primary motivation came from grade school when I learned that yes, Russia had elections but there was only one candidate. How can you let there be only one candidate if you believe in democracy?

4 years later I'd had the mid life crisis and realized I wouldn't have the time to accomplish my remaining life goals if i was distracted by politics. So it may help to recruit younger candidates if possible.

bizgrrl's picture

I remember Goose running. I

I remember Goose running. I think we still have a bumper sticker. It was in South Knoxville, whatever district that is. Pretty sure it was 4-5 years ago, or so.

fischbobber's picture

Another note

If there is personal bad blood between Democrats, during an election we should learn to keep our mouths shut and let our voting determine the direction of the party. Giving Republicans ammunition in the form of the only sane and rational arguments in their playbook is something best left for policy arguments before and after election time. With no exceptions, I don't see this community, state, or nation worse off with a democrat in any known office (o.k. Clayton, the faux democrat for governor notwithstanding).

My two cents.

knoxrebel's picture

Piping up

I appreciate that, but "our voting" for who? For what? That's the problem, Bob, if Democrats want a say in the most important offices in county government, in who governs this county, they have to bolt to the GOP Primary and they are apparently doing just that. Now, I'm not against Democrats voting in the GOP Primary to insure that our Democrat nominee can take on the most vulnerable Republican, but this discussion is about not being able to vote for a weaker Republican, it's about having only a single choice - only a single race - in which to vote.

There's bad personal blood in virtually every county and at the state level in both the GOP and Democratic Parties. And this issue - recruiting candidates - is at the heart of the problem. It's about the direction of the Democratic Party. That's not a private issue. Nor is it a personal issue. It's a fundamental issue that Democrats need to be talking about. The candidates running for the State Executive Committee have to answer these questions any time they attend a meeting.

The GOP has all the ammunition they need right now: we have given Republicans few obstacles to completely controlling county and state government. I'm not helping them along. And no, I don't need to "learn to keep my mouth shut," because all that's going to do is allow the deplorable status quo to continue unabated. Things need to be shaken up. Now, not later. So, I'd rather pipe up than shut up.

Yellow Dog Dem.'s picture

This statement is exceedingly

This statement is exceedingly short-sighted. That is, you're missing the big picture. If we (Democrats) can't air out our dirty laundry here, then where else are we going to air it? These same critiques have been brought to the attention of our local leadership before, but unfortunately, nothing was done about it.

Your argument in regard to "let the vote decide" would hold water, however what vote are you referring to? The crux of this issue is that leaders in our local party have been unable to recruit quality candidates for Democrats to choose from. Thus, many Democrats, against their will, have began voting in the GOP primary because at least they provide options. In the end, voicing concerns about our lack of leadership and recruitment of candidates does not give Republicans ammunition to use against us, it's the pitiful job some party leaders have done which gives the Republicans firing power. Unless individuals speak out about these current and consistent problems, we will continue to surrender Knox County to the GOP.

I agree with your Clayton assessment, however.

knoxrebel's picture

No luck with shutting me up

Interesting turn of events: I've just learned that the KCDP chair contacted someone I've contracted to write for over the past 20 years to have them demand that I stop commenting on this post. I've known the man pretty well for that period of time and wasn't too concerned about what his response would be to such a ridiculously stupid tactic.

It's a pretty awful state of affairs when someone you don't know very well tries to suppress your political views by contacting someone for whom you do work. That hits pretty close to home. Thankfully, my own views are respected enough that the KCDP chair's . . . uh, request . . . was cordially passed on to me to do with as I saw fit. Accordingly, I will continue with my efforts to try to help right the ship on this and other blogs. Maybe even step it up a bit.

fischbobber's picture

By and large

I'll let my dogs lie. While I have policy disagreements with the occasional person, my conscience tells me that I'll still be better of with a committed Democrat in any given office, even in a non-patisain race.

Plus, I'm not really important enough for the KCDP to contact. At least not on a personal level. So I don't spend a lot of time worrying about that.

Gregg Lonas's picture

the real issues are:

The good democratic candidates that run and get beat don't run again. Mostly because of what happens on here and the inter-party shenanigans. Until we stop eating our young, it will never improve.

knoxrebel's picture

An idea to start heading in the right direction

I agree, Gregg, that good candidates who lose have a tendency not to come back and run again later on. We've seen it way too often. And I'm sure some of it is the fact that they are put off by the back-biting and infighting that has long-dominated the local and state parties. The intra-party fights in Knox County date back at least to the Randy Nichols-Travis Brasfield race for DA in 1982. But the party appeared to come together in the 90's and early part of the last decade. However, it's no secret to Democrats who have been active in party-politics that, dating back to the 2004 presidential race, the local party, weak as it has become across the county and in 7 of 9 districts, is increasingly factionalized and locked in a feud between the new and the old, the left-leaning and the moderate, those with no alliance to either and those with some alliance to one.

This is not to say that the GOP doesn't have the same feuds. It does, and has for years. But unlike Democrats, the GOP appears to always come together and set aside the pettiness to win elections.

Perhaps all of this is why quality candidates who run, wind up never coming back. Good point. But I also think this has a huge effect on recruiting candidates. For instance, if a recruitment committee is comprised of progressives, or members allied with that "wing," the result is that they will only look - to the extent they look at all - for similarly-minded candidates. The reverse is also true, I'm sure.

The thing that, to use Linda Haney's words, is mind-boggling to me, is that the it appears none of the folks who were identified as being "in-charge" of recruiting candidates were women or minorities. Just a couple of white guys. That is not only ironic, it is also wrong. Not having a woman or a minority on a committee whose job it is to recruit Democratic candidates makes no sense at all.

So, what I'm proposing is we get all of these folks together - not AFTER the August election - but NOW. We have everyone sit down in a room and thrash out every issue that's obstructing us from being a unified local party. I'm not talking about putting just the progressives in a room, or party officers, but instead putting in a room elected Democrats, former Democrat officeholders, current candidates, party donors, labor leaders, longtime volunteers and new ones, the current party chair, and as many of the past chairs as you can muster. Call it what you want to call it, but put everyone in a room and say no one is leaving until we resolve all of this. It's about the future and direction of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps some will say it isn't broke, so it doesn't need to be fixed. Look at the May ballot. It's broke. Let's fix it. I'd encourage Linda Haney to put this meeting together and ask a respected Democrat officeholder to ram-rod the meeting. Mayor Rogero, Randy Nichols, Judge Leibowitz, Chancellor Fansler, etc. Let's just do SOMETHING.

Mello's picture

would removing party affiliation

Would removing party affiliation from county level elections help elect progressive officials? In the past I always hated the idea but now I see merit in it. The Mayor who ran without party affiliation is able to prove their worth, build their experience and go on later to run for a state or federal office as a Dem.

And I will admit that I voted in the Green Party Primary this year. I will likely vote for a Green Party candidate in Nov. I've never been a single issue voter but this year's vote for farms as concert venues and the unwillingness of Dem Party leadership combined with lack of action by all those big city Progressive Mayors finally pushed me out of my own party.

Yes, I know those folks will just ignore the law and shut down any farm concert venue/event with other rules that don't really apply. It will then be up to the farmer to sue the city for those rights given by the state. It's a bullshit way of enforcement and one we see in action on other fronts.

knoxrebel's picture

Definitely has merit

I think that's a great idea, always have. Would Madeline have been elected if she ran as a Democrat? Probably, since she was such a great candidate and the city precincts are still predominantly Democrat. But non-partisan elections in Knox County would certainly open up doors to more progressive candidates who would otherwise be ball-and-chained by having to run as a "D" in most districts. And maybe it's my imagination, but party affiliation has always seemed to make less of a difference to voters on a local level.

The GOP would resist such a move, as it threatens the Republican control of the courthouse. But that's just another reason to like the idea.

Dick's picture

Electing Democrats

We're making the same mistake at every level. All the focus is on fielding Democratic candidates. Then they lose, they don't run again, and nobody else wants to run. Then we wring our hands. Meanwhile, the state party begs and begs for money, and throws it away on losing races.

Why is the Democratic Party, statewide and here in Knox County, not working to register Democratic voters.

Knoxgal's picture

Register Voters

This is an excellent point. Get people registered and organize transportation for those who need it so they can vote.

knoxrebel's picture

No voter registration plan another sign of the KCDP being broken

Yet another sign that the local party isn't doing what it needs to be doing to help Democrat candidates.

Registering voters is often an effective process. Usually, if a candidate registers voters, that particular voter will be loyal to the candidate for that race. The same does not necessarily hold true when voters are registered by a party. And we certainly do not want to be registering GOP voters for them. Still, the fact that there does not appear to be a voter registration plan at all for the local Democratic Party is problematic. The time has passed for it to matter for Dan Kidd and Dave Valone (the only contested Dem race in May). But, there's still the August county general and state primary to come, so maybe the KCDP will step up.

I'd encourage every Democratic candidate to develop and implement a voter registration drive for their campaigns.

Knoxgal's picture

Restrictions on Abortion

In November there will be a referendum on the ballot which, if passed, will allow the legislature to place more restrictions on a woman's ability to get an abortion. We have got to get the Democratic vote out for this as well as to vote in certain key races. Most people aren't aware of this yet so we need to start spreading the word. Vote NO on Amendment One.

reform4's picture

Turnout and down-ballot

What Democrats at the state level fail to understand is WHY people get out and vote. The referendum has nothing to do with getting a referendum passed (if it does, it's gravy). But waving the abortion flag or a gun initiative on the ballot gets them out in droves. Yes, there will be Democrats that will come out to vote against, but psychology dictates that more people come out to vote for something they do want, rather than voting against. If there was a ballot initiative to, say, provide equal marriage rights, it would be easier to rally Democrats to vote, and you could turn some local general elections based on that turnout, because of the generally poor turnout numbers.

When Democrats were in charge of the legislature, they were too stupid to realize this.

Democrats at the state level also stupidly brushed aside Kim McMillan in 2010, hoping to 'clear the road' for Mike McWherter. All that meant was in the 2010 primary, Democrats had that much less reason to turn out. The problem is, that primary was the County General, and any Dem in that ballot (and other county general candidates ACROSS THE ENTIRE FRIGGIN' STATE) got trounced.

Utterly stupid. They should have left Kim in. Maybe they were afraid of Kim beating their 'good old boy' hand-picked candidate? Well, sorry, that's what primaries are for, and you don't sacrifice 100s of local races for 'your boy.'

The 2010 Primary is why I have zero, repeat ZERO respect for the state organization. Until someone comes forward and says, "yeah, we screwed the pooch on that one, but we learned something," I will have no reason to support the party at a state level.

They MUST learn the influence that other ballot items has on elections, they MUST learn and understand WHY people vote (and don't vote), and they MUST develop strategies based on that. Hoping to mobilize voters to vote down a ballot initiative won't get out demoralized voters. Give us something, or someone to vote FOR.

(If Rikki were still around, I'd challenge him to go through the data and show that city Dems that don't regularly vote turned out in droves for Madeline... I feel confident that's what the data would show).

Rachel's picture

(If Rikki were still around,

(If Rikki were still around, I'd challenge him to go through the data and show that city Dems that don't regularly vote turned out in droves for Madeline... I feel confident that's what the data would show).

I dunno. That was an embarrassingly low turnout election, so I suspect that almost everybody who voted was a "regular" voter.

And how would you know who the Dems were, since this isn't a state with party registration?

fischbobber's picture

I don't get this.

(If Rikki were still around, I'd challenge him to go through the data and show that city Dems that don't regularly vote turned out in droves for Madeline... I feel confident that's what the data would show).

He seems like a guy who lead a full life. Why would he drop everything to prove a point someone else was too lazy to make? Election results are public record and posted, broken down by precinct, on the internet. Why does Rikki have to be around for this to get done?

Mike Knapp's picture

Good question

It says a lot about the state of affairs of the local Democratic Party to rely almost exclusively on a part time data analyst to help with and help win local races. What does/should a party look like, what is/should be its operational capacity to win in red counties in a red state? Is it worth it, or is it possible to pay someone a living wage to operationalize voting data to help campaigns with ward walk lists etc? Are democrats prepared to sign up voters May 1st at the peoples rally?
Political Parties - institutions that build capacity to help their candidates win
The working families party IMHO is worth a long, hard look see. Community organizing PLUS political party for progressives to move forward theirs seems more the right approach.

Wynnbilly's picture

25 signatures

If I lose, I'll run again in 4 years. Getting out and meeting the people in your district is one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have. Most races require 25 signatures. It ain't a lot. Good Democrats will become easier and easier to find, as the right keeps painting themselves further & further into a corner.

One problem, I've seen locally, is that the Democrats need to stop looking for the perfect candidate, and accept what we have without trying to force them into some sort of litmus test to see if they're bona fide.

Get a petition, go out and run, go out and get signatures, meet the public, it's a great reward.

knoxrebel's picture

Good for you. It was exactly

Good for you. It was exactly that way for me 4 years ago when I ran as an Independent and got 40% of the vote. Met folks I'll probably know for the rest of my life. And electoral politics is cyclical - it might take another 8-12 years for Democrats to be fully competitive in county-wide races, but it will happen.

Not sure if I agree with your second point - that Democrats seem to seek out "perfect candidates," since it's been my experience the past 6 years that they don't seek out many candidates at all. On the other hand, you are dead-on about the litmus test. It seems that if a person has ever helped or donated to a Republican candidate, they are summarily disqualified from running as a Democrat. That mindset is truly idiotic, as it immediately disqualifies many people who might otherwise be great candidates. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, 9 people on the State Democratic Executive Committee pushed to have local class action lawyer Gordon Ball removed from the ballot because he had supported Republicans in the past, totally ignoring the tens of thousands of dollars he had donated to Democrats like Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, and Harold Ford, Jr.

As long as local Democrats view the Democratic Party as some sort of exclusive "club," they'll not achieve much success.

But I do appreciate and commend your enthusiasm. We need more just like you.

Knoxoasis's picture

Dead on. I've been a bit

Dead on. I've been a bit amused by this line of argument that democrats would be more competitive if the local party was better at recruiting. Perhaps. But I've been around politics in Knox County for a long time and I've never met a single person who ran for office from either party because the party asked them to. People run for their own reasons and out of individual motivations.

I'm sure that party candidate recruitment happens in big elections with national implications, like the US House and Senate, but down here people run because they want to. It can be daunting, but ultimately its about getting 25 names on a petition and putting yourself out there. To say that you would have been interested in running but didn't because no one in the party asked you to is a cop out.

I'll ask Tamera as the most visible person actively campaigning here: did you run because some party functionary asked you to,or did you pick up a petition on your own initiative?

Knoxoasis's picture

No. Does anyone here not

No. Does anyone here not know that Tamera is a Democrat? Or Madeline for that matter? Answer me that.

Your misdirection aside, the question could be asked of any candidate who reads or posts here. Same question: are you running because you were recruited to by any party?

knoxrebel's picture

Forrest for the trees

The point you are trying to make just doesn't make sense. I'm not talking about Tamara, or anyone else who actually made an effort to get on the ballot. I'm talking about recruiting people for offices in which Democrats have NO candidates by a date certain before the qualifying deadline passes. For instance, if we are two weeks away from the filing deadline and no one has picked up a petition, the party needs to be looking for candidates. Otherwise, you'll have an uncontested GOP win and Dems look like they lack even the minimal shred of credibility necessary to just field a candidate. I'm not sure how anyone can counter that bit of logic.

Knoxoasis's picture

Actually, when I wrote this I

Actually, when I wrote this I had this in mind:

If someone - Harmon, Brooks, Haney, etc. - had discussed it with me, I'd have considered an at-large Commission seat or the Criminal Court Clerk race and I'd have been happy to self-finance either. But the fact is, few people are going to consider running if they are not asked, especially if they cannot expect the support of the Democratic Party, e.g., volunteers, seed-money, organizational help.

I think you have a very inflated idea of what both parties at the local level do. Most candidates recruit their own helpers, from friends and neighbors and people who offer up their support. The money candidates get from the local party is a pittance. You self-finance or you hold fundraisers. You can organize a county-wide political campaign from your living room.

It's not rocket science, it's just work, and a willingness to take the first step. If you wait for The Party to lift you up to office, whether you're a D or an R, you're going to be sitting and waiting for a long, long time.

knoxrebel's picture

Again, I fail to see the

Again, I fail to see the point you are trying so hard to make. Sorry, but there was no way I was going to stick my neck out and run . . . unless I had the support of all Democrats, as opposed to a few. Indeed, I was asked to run ... by a Democrat officer ... against Gloria Johnson ... as an Independent. It was something I didn't consider. If I had run as an "I" in the November election, it would obviously have siphoned votes away from Gloria, maybe enough to cost her the election. Maybe not. Anyway, whether Gloria and I agree on everything or not (we don't), she's doing a fine job standing up for classroom teachers and she's astoundingly better on every front than either of the nitwit Republicans she'll be up against in November.

To many who are not political junkies or newshounds, it is like rocket science. We shouldn't just want folks like us to run, we should encourage anyone with intelligence to run. And you are wrong about the R's. They actually help each other.

Knoxoasis's picture

Sorry, but there was no way I

Sorry, but there was no way I was going to stick my neck out and run . . . unless I had the support of all Democrats, as opposed to a few.

Why? What could you have lost by sticking your neck out? I don't mean against Gloria, but for one of those offices you said you'd have been happy to run for, if only someone had thought to come and ask you?

While you write impassioned pleas for someone else to do something, all the things you decry come to pass. It doesn't take a Party to take a step, it takes a man or woman with the courage to proceed.

Everyone who runs for office sticks their neck out. Who dares, wins.

knoxrebel's picture

A man or woman with courage

A man or woman with courage will get you 30% of the vote. We've seen that plenty of times. In 2008, when nobody wanted to run as a Democrat in the 8th District Commission race against Bud Armstrong, my brother decided to do it, knowing he'd get 30% of the vote. Not too many people would want to put their heart, time, and money into a race without help. Running a campaign is hard. It might be fun, at times, but it's hard work. You've got to have something to back those folks up. That's the point. The GOP does. The Democrats don't.

Well, I stuck my neck out in 2007 and ran for party chair. And I stuck my neck out again in 2010 and ran for County Commission. The first time, I dared and won. The second, I dared and lost. I assume, by the bold words you use here, that you've put your name out there as a candidate. If so, good for you, we'll have to agree to disagree. If not, maybe you shouldn't be so quick to charge someone with not doing something they have done . . . twice.

We've steered way off course on this thread from where it started. It wasn't about personal or civic responsibility. It's about people who are elected to an office not doing what they were elected to do. If the KCDP sees that days before the qualifying deadline, few Democrats have picked up petitions, seems to me they out to go into scramble mode and start finding candidates, since the folks who had the initiative to run on their own have already picked up petitions. don't for one second imply that the GOP doesn't actively recruit candidates. They routinely sniff out candidates for specific offices.

My plea to do something doesn't apply to "everyone else" at all. It applies to the people who are "running" the Democratic Party. And I'm certainly willing to get my hands dirty and work, as I have in the past, but that comes after the local party decides something's broke.

Knoxoasis's picture

I'm glad to know you've done

I'm glad to know you've done it. I have too, and I've won and I've lost. I get discouraged by people who bemoan a lack of political participation but expect that it's someone else's job to do something about it. I'm glad you're not one of those.

Nuff said.

knoxrebel's picture

A good point, but mostly off-the-mark

This is off-the-mark, by quite a ways. While I do agree that plenty of candidates run for their own reasons, the fact is, you don't need to recruit them. It's the people who might consider being candidates, but don't know how to do it or what to do after they pick up a petition, or need help or convincing that I'm talking about.

First, if we had Democrat candidates picking up qualifying petitions to run for offices, I'd see your point. But the fact is, at some point, the party officers have to take a look at the petition list assembled by the Election Commission and notice that well over half the races have no Democrats running. That's when you have to recruit folks to run. You don't NEED to recruit if you actually HAVE candidates interested in running for office. Once upon a time, you could count on Democrat candidates popping up and picking up petitions to run. But no more. That's why the party has to recruit.

Second, I've been around Knox County politics for over 30 years, I've been a volunteer, a ward chair, a county chair, a Board of Governors' member, an Executive Committee member, a party donor, a candidate, and I've managed over 40 county-wide or district campaigns over that period. It isn't like it was back in the 80's, the 90's, or even the first part of the last decade. You don't see Democrat candidates coming out of the wood-work these days in Knox County.

Third, when I was chair, I actually had several meetings with potential candidates on their home turfs, had others try to recruit candidates, and we had a recruitment committee, we eventually fielded a full slate of candidates, and when we couldn't find a candidate for one particular county-wide office, I flirted with running myself, one was found.

As for not running unless you are asked being a "cop-out," that's pretty lame. Unless a candidate is able to self-fund a campaign and you can ignore the party folks, you need to know your candidacy is one supported by the party and that the party will not shun you as a candidate. Plenty of candidates are not supported by the party and they know it. At least the candidate can know they are not alone, have party resources, phones, volunteers, a headquarters, etc.

Tamara is an activist. My guess is she didn't need any prodding to run. She was self-inspired. But there are just as many, and by the looks of the May ballot, more people who do need prodding, and they might just make terrific candidates - that is, if someone would just have a discussion with them. They just need to know they're not out there alone somewhere lost on an island and have something behind them.

Andy Axel's picture

They just need to know

They just need to know they're not out there alone somewhere lost on an island and have something behind them.

Thing is, they are and they don't.

Which is why you have decent guys (see: Gordon, Bart) refusing to engage the fight as lunatics (see: Clayton, Mark) are running for statewide office, while the state party continues a fruitless two-handed search for its own butt. Doesn't seem like the locals are faring much better.

knoxrebel's picture

I agree completely that guys

I agree completely that guys like Bart Gordon have stepped aside for the past few years, while Lincoln Davis had to find out the hard way what would result from not stepping aside. Frankly, the perception is that there are no genuine "stars" of the Democratic Party in Tennessee. Gore doesn't bother with state politics anymore. Bredesen is quickly becoming a non-factor, if he isn't already. Gordon and Tanner aren't involved publicly anymore. On the local level, we do have a handful of Democrat mayors (Kim McMillan, Karl Dean, Madeline Rogero, Andy Berke) who surely show promise, and maybe one or more will look at the Governor's race in 2018, but so far only Kim McMillan has shown any level of interest. She might be the best bet to take on that race.

Can you get Bredesen or Gore or Gordon or Davis to get back involved? I doubt it. And I'm not sure their involvement would matter anymore. Once upon a time, I thought Harold Ford, Jr. was the future of the Tennessee Democratic Party. But certainly, an effort has to be made to get the current crop of Democrat mayors heavily involved in state-wide Democratic politics.

fischbobber's picture


I think the reason one doesn't see more Democrats running is that , for lack of a better term, we're busy. Prices are up, wages are down. I'll spend,(including Boy Scouts and athletics) upwards of 10 thousand dollars sending my child to a public school that some democrats think should be shut down because we don't serve enough children free and reduced lunches. The infighting in the party has reached the point where those of us that work for a living are fighting for our own survival.

I'm all for helping the less fortunate. I'm just not wild about the idea that the best way to do that is become one.

How many of these candidates for these offices are actually acting in their own field of expertise? All our school board candidates seem to be lacking children attending school in the terms they would be serving in. What does that tell you? It's all power and theory to them. There's no skin in the game. It's like that all the way up the ladder.

Bbeanster's picture

I can't recall an 11th-hour

I can't recall an 11th-hour candidate, recruited or otherwise, that had any success. Maybe there have been some, but I can't call up their names.
Successful campaigns generally require careful planning.

knoxrebel's picture

Jimmie Kyle Davis. Generally,

Jimmie Kyle Davis. Generally, Betty, I think you are right. But the point I've been trying to make is that, at some point, someone needs to take a look at the petition list and say, "hey, we don't have anyone running for" this, that, or the other office. And do something to try to fill the slots with someone decent, rather than conceding a race to the GOP without a fight.

Once upon a time, I was of the mindset that if Dems didn't have the chance to win a seat, don't contest it. At this point, I'm not so sure.

Bbeanster's picture

You REALLY want to count the

You REALLY want to count the time Jimmy Kyle Davis and Loy Smith pulled the old switcheroo in 1984 – Loy, a longtime GOP state rep decided not to run, but didn't tell anybody but Jimmy Kyle, who went on down to the courthouse with 25 friends and filled out a petition on the last day to qualify to run unopposed?

That resulted in an anti-skulduggery bill that passed overwhelmingly.

My point stands.

knoxrebel's picture

Not quite

You said you didn't recall a last minute candidate who was successful. Jimmy Kyle was about as last minute as you can get. And he won. Still, as I said, the point I am trying to make is not that last-minute candidates can succeed - although under the right set of circumstances (money, name recognition, etc.), I think they surely can - but that we need to do whatever is necessary to put more Democrats on the ballot, especially when it appears ahead of time that we'll have no candidates on the ballot in well over half the offices. That requires someone actually taking an interest in the dearth of Democrat candidates pulling out petitions and being prepared to actually do something about it. And who is in a better position to do that than the elected officers of the KCDP? One part of the "platform" of the last five party chairs has been to "recruit candidates" to run for office. So, this business about it not being the role of the party to do that is utter nonsense. If you're not going to make an effort to do it, then don't say you will.

What does it say to voters that so many offices are uncontested by Democrats in August? I think it says a lot.

Average Guy's picture

The issues locally and statewide have been offered on a platter

Little more was needed other than a "I'm going to do the opposite of that person" platform.

We can only hope voters on local level have been paying attention.

On a State level, specifically but not limited to governor, not much for a voter to do besides watch the ineptness get worse.

fischbobber's picture

Here we are!


I found us.

Knoxgal's picture



knoxrebel's picture

Now, that's pretty funny.

Now, that's pretty funny.

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