Tennessee’s largest labor union has declined to endorse the state’s Democratic candidate for governor — and Charlie Brown couldn’t care less.
Gary Moore, president of Tennessee AFL-CIO, said that the union’s general-election endorsement committee has already met and “there was no endorsement at all in the governor’s race.”
“We feel like that [Brown] is certainly fair to a lot of our ideas, a lot of our philosophy, and certainly think he’s a stand-up gentleman, but we just didn’t feel like he was qualified to lead the state,” Moore told TNReport.
Brown is a 72-year-old Morgan County retiree who, without ever campaigning , won the Democratic gubernatorial primary by more than 35,000 votes on Aug. 7. His nearest competition was from John McKamey, a former Sullivan County mayor and the Democratic candidate for governor endorsed by the AFL-CIO in the primary.
A staunch union man, Brown took umbrage at Moore’s assessment. “What are you talking about that I’m not a leader?” he responded when advised in a phone interview of the former Democratic state lawmaker‘s remarks.
Brown contends he’s developed plenty of leadership skills as a workingman over the years, as a foreman, a superintendent, a lead carpenter and a road construction engineer. Even at his first job — helping build railway tunnels near Oakdale — Brown said he was put in charge of handling high explosives his first day on the payroll.
But even without an official endorsement from union leadership, Brown expects union workers will support him because their interests are his interests.
“I don’t care if they don’t give me no money, I still believe in the union,” Brown told TNReport.
He added, “I’m not worried about the AFL-CIO, I’m worried about the people in Tennessee, and the unions in Tennessee.”
Brown prophesied a victory in November, with or without official labor endorsements. He’s said he’s confident he’ll be the Volunteer State’s next governor because “anymore, people can’t stand Bill Haslam.”
And that includes a lot of Tennessee Republicans, he said. “I’ve had Republicans stop me and say, ‘Hey, we’re not voting for Haslam, but we’re not saying we’re going to vote for you’,” Brown said. Then he wondered, “But who are they going to vote for?”
If victorious at the polls, Brown says he’s got some big plans for when he assumes office. He said he’ll “fix TennCare” and expand it.
“I already know how to get it back to the people, I’ve already researched this,” Brown said. “And I have to go through a bunch of Republicans, but this will work. It’s like (former governor) Ned McWherter brought it into action, I’m going to bring it back into action.”
He also promises to return tenure to the state’s teachers and expand benefits for state employees. And raising the minimum wage to $10.50 is another priority on his to-do list.
However, while much of his agenda matches that of many Democratic Party politicians in Tennessee, a few of his views demonstrate a decidedly more conservative side.
Brown described himself as unapologetically pro-life and pro gun. His belief in the Second Amendment and Holy Scripture is central to his candidacy, he said.
It was God who led him to run in the first place, and it will be God who is leading his campaign, Brown said. “If you don’t like it, I can’t help you,” he said.
But while Brown knows God is in his corner, he’s getting the feeling the Tennessee Democratic Party isn’t.
Brown’s not at all been impressed with the backing he’s received thus far from TNDP, which he likened unfavorably to the Tennessee AFL-CIO. Other than acknowledging he’s their candidate for governor, Brown said the party bosses have done nothing to help him win votes.
“So, I don’t know what they did with that $500,000 they made up at the Jackson Day Dinner,” he said. “I thought that was to help out the candidates.”
TNDP’s communication’s director, Rick Herron, emailed TNReport a statement saying the party is “looking to invest in races” where a difference can be made in “helping effect a victory.” The party is “constantly evaluating” its budget, Herron wrote, as well as monitoring “the political landscape across the state and the viability of individual campaigns.”
“In making that assessment, we have invested in selected campaigns, both for the August elections and looking toward November, and we will continue to be attentive to solid opportunities,” wrote Herron, who is the son of TNDP Executive Director Roy Herron.
Roy Herron announced Saturday that he won’t be seeking a new term as the party’s chairman.