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Robert Houk

Opinion Page Editor
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Democrats say Charlie Brown is their man

August 18th, 2014 11:13 am by Robert Houk

Democrats say Charlie Brown is their man

Good grief! Charlie Brown is the Democratic nominee for governor of Tennessee.

Charlie Brown, Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, it doesn’t really seem to matter to Democrats in this state. They’ll vote for the first name that appears on a statewide ballot.

The Democratic nominee for governor is a crusty character who bears little likeness to the lovable comic strip character from “Peanuts.” Charles V. “Charlie” Brown is an untested political newbie from the town of Oakdale (with a population of 200 or so inhabitants) in Morgan County.

By most news accounts, the 72-year-old retired real estate agent spent no money and did very little campaigning to become the Democrat facing Republican incumbent Bill Haslam in November.

It shouldn’t be hard to predict how this race will go. Picture Haslam as Lucy Van Pelt pulling the football away from Charlie Brown just as he is about to make a kick

Actually, it won’t even be that close. And that’s sad considering Republicans often managed to find credible statewide candidates to challenge Democrats when they were the minority party 20 years ago.

This governor’s race shows just how far the Democratic Party has fallen in Tennessee. No, wait, that moment actually came in 2012 when Democrats picked another candidate with a name that appeared alphabetically at the top of the ballot to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.

It turned out that their nominee, Mark Clayton, was the vice president of an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center had identified as being an anti-gay hate group. Clayton, who was later disavowed by the state party, beat out six other candidates for the nomination. One of them was Greeneville resident Park Overall, an actress and environmental activist who was recruited by Democrats in Nashville to get into the race.

Like Clayton, not much was known about Brown until the votes were tallied. A day after the election, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported state Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron was looking “forward to learning more about Brown.” The paper also noted that Herron told its reporter “the party that’s out of power usually struggles against a sitting governor.”

True. But even Republicans were able to nominate a one-term state legislator (Dwight Henry) to give token challenge to the Gov. Ned McWherter in 1990. The Democrats of 2014 have given us Charlie Brown.

Democrats did have four candidates on the Aug. 7 ballot to choose from. One was Piney Flats’ own John McKamey. Despite McKamey being the most qualified candidate in the field, his campaign was doomed from the start. (That’s because his name appeared third on the ballot.)

McKamey, who previously served as county executive (now county mayor) of Sullivan County, has decades of experience in politics. He was the only candidate in the field to literally campaign from Mountain City to Memphis.

He stumped in Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga. McKamey was even endorsed by the AFL-CIO Labor Council. But it made no difference. Democratic voters chose Charlie Brown.

Good grief!

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at Like him on Facebook: www.facebook com/JCPressRobertHouk. Follow him at

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