TNDP’s Candidate for Governor Low on Campaign Resources

Charlie Brown has been saying it all along: the Tennessee Democratic Party isn’t giving him any money.

And according to the most recent campaign finance report, he’s right about that.

Brown, who won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in August with 42 percent of the vote, besting the Democratic party establishment-backed candidate, former Sullivan County Mayor John McKamey, by 36,000 votes, has just $103 cash on hand and has made no campaign expenditures according to the most recent disclosures he filed with the state.

In contrast, Bill Haslam, the Republican incumbent, has a cash-on-hand balance of about $3 million.

Brown, a retired contractor from Morgan County with no previous political experience, said that following his primary win TNDP’s chairman, Roy Herron, urged him to step aside so McKamey could appear on the general election ballot instead. “The Democrat Party hasn’t supported me, they’ve tried to get me to drop out,” he said. Brown refused, saying the request made little sense to him, given his convincing margin of victory in the primary.

Frustrated by the lack of party support, Brown and one of his primary challengers, Ron Noonan, have recently taken to Noonan’s YouTube channel to get his message to the voters. Likewise, Brown has posted a video critical of the TWRA’s clear-cutting policies to his own YouTube channel.

While there hasn’t been much party support for their candidate, many prominent Democrats are emphasizing the need to get out the vote in this year’s gubernatorial election to better their chances of defeating amendments to the state Constitution that they oppose. Chief among these is Amendment 1, which would change the Tennessee Constitution to say that nothing in the document recognizes a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. Also in the mix is Amendment 3, which would prohibit the state or local government’s passing an income tax.

The threshold for passing a constitutional amendment ballot referendum in Tennessee depends on how many votes are cast in the governor’s race. In order to pass, an amendment must win not just a majority of votes on the ballot question itself, but a majority of the total votes cast in the governor’s race. Therefore, if fewer people cast a vote for governor, the threshold for amendment passage is lower.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, recently came out in support of independent gubernatorial candidate John Jay Hooker. Cohen said he fears voters could skip the gubernatorial ballot this election, “because they’ve never heard of (Charlie Brown) or they think he’s funny or not really running a campaign.”

Hooker, who has run for governor three times before — in 1966, 1970 and 1998 — is making the defeat of the Amendment 2 judicial selection measure his central issue of focus this year.

Cohen said in order to defeat the anti-abortion amendment, Democrats have to cast some sort of vote for governor, whether that vote be for Hooker, or a Green or Libertarian Party candidate, or “even Haslam.”

Conversely, Hooker’s message to voters has been not only to reject Amendment 2, but “vote for somebody, just not Haslam.”

Meanwhile, some proponents of the abortion measure have urged fellow Tennesseans to vote for the amendment, but skip the governor’s race altogether.

Brown, also an opponent of Amendment 1, has said abortion is “none of legislators’ business and the safety of the women comes first.” He also happens to agree with Hooker that the Tennessee Constitution requires direct elections of appellate-level judges, including members of the Supreme Court, and that the state’s guiding document should be followed in that regard, not changed to permanently ensure the so-called “Tennessee Plan.”

Multiple requests to the TNDP for comment on the Charlie Brown issue have gone unanswered — although Herron told the Knoxville News Sentinel recently that he plans to vote for Brown.