We held our Green Party of Tennessee nominating convention in mid-May, and, to our delight, came up with nearly a dozen candidates for office, from U.S. Senate to the Tennessee House of Representatives. I’m going to introduce the candidates to you, in more or less their own words, and talk a little about their respective electoral contests.
Let’s start with Tennessee House races.
In district 55, we have Susan Shann, who has this to say about herself:
I have occupied many roles: singer / songwriter, music teacher, spiritual seeker, political activist, environmentalist – just to name a few. I created Earth Revolution, a local-access TV program dedicated to highlighting the good work of “green” businesses and non-profits in and around Davidson County, and started Transition Nashville, a group inspired by the global Transition Movement, which is working to turn Metro Nashville into a network of localized, resilient and sustainable communities, I see this campaign as another way to speak to my great concerns in life: the protection and preservation of our planet, and thriving, sustainable, socially just communities in which everyone can enjoy access to high quality health care, healthy food, and other necessities.
She is running against Democrat Gary Odom, who is otherwise unopposed. This is an ideal situation for a Green to run in, since there is no chance Susan can be accused of “spoiling” Odom’s chances for re-election. While Rep. Odom is one of the more “progressive” members of the Tennessee House Democrat minority, the Republican majority has systematically ignored
every substantive bill he introduced. Nothing personal, that’s just what they’re doing to the Democrats. Hey, if they’re gonna ignore you anyway, you might as well shoot for the moon, and I’m sure Susan’s presence in the race will radically enlarge the possibilities by showing people what lies beyond the nodding complacency of the corporatist Democrat Party imagination.
Susan’s our only Nashville-area Tennessee House candidate, unfortunately. I thought long and hard about it, but in the end decided that my health, while on the mend, isn’t up to the stress that being in a tight three-way race in my district would engender. Give me another two years of feeling good, and I may well be ready to jump in.
We have four Tennessee House candidates in the eastern part of the state. In District 16, Brian Moneyhun is taking on Bill Dunn, one of the most reactionary members of the Tennessee Legislature. Dunn has sponsored several “nullification” bills, such as the “Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act,” which attempted to remove firearms and ammunition manufactured in the state from Federal purview. Another is the “Health Freedom Act,” which attempts to remove the state from the horrible socialist grip of Rombomacare. Apparently, nobody has told Dunn that the question of whether states can nullify Federal legislation was settled by an event known as the Civil War in the 1860′s, and that the Supreme Court decided, in Raich vs. Ashcroft. that the feds can control commerce even if it doesn’t cross state lines. I don’t agree with the Raich decision, and apart from its anti-slavery conclusion I’m not sure what to think of the War Between the States, I’m just saying that nullification is not the law of the land. Dunn has also been instrumental in tightening restrictions on abortions and “controlled substances,” sponsoring the notorious bill that encouraged Tennessee teachers to preach Creationism, and pushing for drug testing of welfare recipients. In other words, he’s carrying water for ALEC, not his constituents, and so his record gives Brian plenty of ammunition.
In the 15th District, Calvin Cassady will be in a two-way race with Democrat Joe Armstrong. This will be an interesting race in an interesting district. The fifteenth district has been carefully gerrymandered to include UT Knoxville and its off-campus student community, and the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Knoxville. Armstrong had no opposition in the 2010 election, winning it 5,000 to nothing, but in 2008 he was opposed by a political unknown with a familiar name, Rachel Ray. No, not the Rachel Ray. This Rachel Ray spent only $20 on her campaign, according to official filings, declined to be interviewed, and still got more votes than Armstrong received in 2010, but since he turned out over 12,000 supporters in 2008, he won by a comfortable margin. Five thousand votes for twenty bucks has to be one of the best expense-to-vote ratios in American political history, and indicates that there is some discontent with Armstrong in the district that Cassady may be able to turn to his advantage.
Here’s my take on Armstrong: he’s vulnerable because he’s a classic corporate liberal. The guy is a Democrat, sure, but he’s an insurance agent by trade, part of the corporatocracy that has kept this country from having a decent publicly funded health care system. And that ties into a lot of other issues. The high price of health care, and of for-profit health insurance, has a widespread ripple effect on our national culture. First, it sucks wealth out of the middle class and into corporate coffers, and is a big contributor to the ongoing impoverishment of America. Second, the way health care in this country is tied to employment stifles innovation. It makes people cautious about striking out on their own. Maybe our system was even designed to keep people in a corporate line, or maybe that’s just an unintended consequence of a profit-oriented insurance and health care system. Anyway, Armstrong, despite his NAACP and Urban League connections, is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and that, I think, is his Achilles heel.
Here’s what Calvin has to say about himself and his campaign:
I am currently an MPA (Masters of Public Administration) student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where I have a 4.0 GPA. I make my living as a real estate investor, fixing up properties in East Knoxville and renting them out. I also work as a part-time delivery driver for a local sandwich shop.
As a Tennessee state legislator I will work for low, fair, and equitable taxes that foster investment and economic growth but at the same time encourage income equality. I want to maintain Tennessee as a world-class location for doing business.
I will work for the regeneration of our inner cities through New Urbanist principles, and focus infrastructure improvements on cities and towns rather than four-laning rural highways to nowhere and encouraging urban sprawl.
I will focus state-wide efforts on energy and water use efficiency measures and tax breaks to improve our energy use per unit of GDP. Every unit of energy saved by the end-user means up to 5 units of energy saved at the power plant and a cleaner, more sustainable Tennessee.
I will reform the drug laws in the state by abolishing mandatory minimum sentencing for victimless crimes and strive to end costly state incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.
In the Eleventh district, Don Land will be involved in a three-way race with incumbent Republican Jeremy Faison and Democrat Marjorie Ramsey. Faison is a home-schooled Christian who beat incumbent Democrat Eddie Yokely by a 4-3 margin in the 2010 election. Ramsey is a retired factory worker and Democrat Party functionary who does not seem to be running a very aggressive campaign. Her candidacy may fall into the “dirty job but somebody has to do it” category.
Susan “Flower” Parker is our candidate in the 3rd District, where she will be involved in a three-way race with first-term Republican Scotty Campbell and Democrat Leah Kirk, who seems to be running a going-through-the-motions campaign–she’s had a Facebook page for a couple of months, but hasn’t put anything on it.
Here’s a statement from Susan:
I am a Tennessee native, born and raised in Bluff City, the mother of two teenagers attending public high school. I work as a substitute teacher for the Sullivan county public school system, and particularly enjoy teaching special education classes; my mother continues teaching high school here in Sullivan County , and will be starting her 45th year in the fall of 2012. I am an ETSU grad. I look forward to serving my community to create a better world. My wish is to increase equality for all. I support the local economy and want to find ways to strengthen it. I believe that protecting Appalachian art and culture is a key to our future.
Putting a special ed teacher in the Tennessee House seems like a good idea to me! Very appropriate!
Those are our Tennessee House candidates. Why no Tennessee Senate candidates? Beats me!
music: Jane Siberry, “Superhero Dream“
Next we come to the U.S. House of Representatives races.
In the 7th District, Green Party stalwart Howard Switzer will be taking on incumbent Marcia Blackburn and Democrat Credo Amouzouvik. Howard says, by way of introduction:
I am an architect specializing in historical restoration and innovative ecological building methods. I was co-chair of The Green Party of Tennessee from 2002-2003 and have been a member of the Green Party’s National Committee for 10 years. I was the Green Party candidate for governor of TN in 2006 and 2010. I run for U.S. Congress as an agent of change to redirect national priorities away from service to dominant financial interests and toward supporting networks of viable, self-reliant communities, with a focus on human well-being and happiness, by adhering to basic values.
Howard has been the TNGP’s candidate for governor twice, and doesn’t just talk the Green talk–he walks the Green walk, and has done so for many years. Focussing on a single Congressional district instead of the whole state will enable Howard to give the people of west-central Tennessee a more intense, and much needed, exposure to Green values. As I’ve often said, we’re not “left,” we’re not “right,” we’re about what makes the most sense, and Howard is an excellent embodiment of, and spokesman for, common sense.
Among his opponents, Marcia Blackburn scarcely needs an introduction; she is cut from the same cloth as Michelle Bachman. Credo Amouzouvik is a classic Democrat party stalking horse– a wounded Iraq war vet and a recent immigrant from West Africa. His platform, as set forth on his web site, expresses all the highest ideals of the Democrat Party, the ideals that the DP’s leadership uses to suck in the masses. How soon will Credo realize that the Dems are all too willing to sell him down the river for corporate gain? Could he end up going Green? Not this year, but the contest will give Howard a chance to connect with him. We’ll see!
in Tennessee’s 6th District, our man Pat Riley has a big advantage: the Democrats aren’t even bothering to field a candidate after right-wing nut job Diane Black beat their last contender by a 7-3 margin. Judging by his campaign statement, Pat is member of the libertarian wing of the Green Party:
A VOTE FOR ME IS A VOTE FOR FREEDOM.
I have worked as a health education specialist, teacher, and real estate developer. I am currently a houseboat broker and singer-songwriter. I am a simple man, with a simple plan:
1.) Stop the wars that are bankrupting the USA
2.) Abolish the IRS
3.) Audit the Federal Reserve
4.) Stop illegal immigration
5.) Stop the war on drugs
6.) Preserve all our Constitutional rights including the 2nd amendment
I believe in Ron Paul’s message. However, I favor green, sustainable jobs and peaceful coexistence with nature.
The Democrats and Republicans have just about bankrupted this country. It’s time to vote GREEN.
A VOTE FOR ME IS A VOTE FOR FREEDOM.
Here’s a link to a campaign song/video that Pat wrote and produced. Contrary to our peacenik public image, he’s not the only Green I know who likes to exercise his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. We’re a big tent. Pat’s platform could play well in his largely rural Highland Rim district. If Diane Black, by some slip of fortune, gets edged out by her even more rabidly reactionary challenger, LouAnne Zelenick, things could be seriously up for grabs in the Sixth. You never know.
In the 5th District, which is mostly Nashville, there’s a host of Republicans scrambling to be the sacrificial lamb who takes on Jim Cooper, our solidly corporate Democrat Congressman. The Green Party’s John Miglietta will carry our standard for the third time. Here’s his bio and campaign statement:
I have a PhD in Political Science and am a professor at Tennessee State University. I have been active with the Green Party for the last several years at the national, state, and local levels. I am running because the two major parties are not adequately addressing the issues confronting our country. One of the issues that I am focusing on is American foreign policy. Our country needs to emphasize human rights and respect for international law. The US should cease intervening in other nations and bring all US military forces and security contractors home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I will also work to end the stranglehold that corporate lobbyists have over government. I also advocate universal single-payer healthcare. My website is http://www.johnmiglietta.org/ and will be launched soon.
While his website isn’t up yet, his Facebook page is, and you can find it here. It will be very interesting to see how John does, now that he will be running with the Green Party label, rather than as an “independent.” Nashville’s “progressive” community has traditionally favored Cooper, apparently hoping that if they show their support, he’ll listen to them. The record, however, shows a different pattern–if you support Jimbo, he will take you for granted. The way to get his attention, folks, is to send him a message by voting for John Miglietta. You know darn well the Republicans haven’t got a chance in this district!
In the Second Congressional District, the opposite holds true. Incumbent Republican John Duncan rolled up 85% of the vote in 2010. Our candidate, Norris Dryer, could eat into that margin, especially since any discontented Democrat who wants to let the DP know it’s too complacent and corporatist can vote for Norris without worrying about voting for a “spoiler.” Norris says of himself:
I was born in Elkhart, Indiana on 4/12/43, and earned degrees in Mass Communications and Music History from Indiana University and Boston University respectively. I had a 41 year career in radio, mostly public radio, and continue to play violin in 3 East Tennessee orchestras, Knoxville, Oak Ridge and Kingsport. I was raised a Republican, became a Democrat while at IU and joined the Knox Greens in 2002. In 2003, I ran for Knoxville City Council as a Green candidate in a non-partisan race, and, although I didn’t get elected, I got 17% of the vote in a 4 person race. I think most Americans are really fed up with our 2 party system, which gives Greens a real opportunity.
Bob Smith is our First District Congressional candidate. That’s a kind of strange race for us, since the Democrat candidate, Alan Woodruff, served as our lawyer in the court case that got us on the ballot, and Alan has expressed concern that Bob’s candidacy might cost him, Alan, the election. The First District, however, has not elected a Democrat since 1879, and the Republican incumbent, Phil Roe, got over 80% of the vote in 2010. If either Alan or Bob can even put a dent in that, then the times are, indeed, a-changing.
Here’s what Bob has to say about himself and his candidacy:
I was born in Titusville, PA and grew up on part of the Seneca Reservation at Kinuza, PA. When I was 18 I joined the Navy, and spent almost 21 years there, mostly working with aircraft armaments. I spent 11 months and 13 days at sea around the time of the Cuban Crisis on a Radar Picket Ship, doing Air Control for the overflights of Cuba, and pilot retrieval if they got into difficulty. In 1980 I got out of the Navy and moved to Texas. I couldn’t go home, because, thanks to Kinuza dam, my hometown was under 700 feet of water. I married Jean in November of that year, and she has remained my steadfast partner ever since. I spent most of the 80′s and 90′s working at military-related jobs both in the U.S. and abroad, including “doing time” as a civilian contractor in Saudi Arabia. As i approached retirement, I got bitten by “the Green bug” and realized that the Green Party was an excellent way to express the Native American values with which I was raised. My platform as a Congressional candidate is to bring those values to bear on the many problems that have arisen since illegal immigrants from Europe hijacked my continent.
And, last but not least, there’s our U.S. Senate candidate, Martin Pleasant, of Knoxville. Like many races in Tennessee this year, the Democrat facing off with Corker seems to be somebody who’s running because a sacrificial lamb was called for. Nobody thinks Corker can be beaten, it seems, and since the Republicans have a lock on our hackable, computerized voting machines, it’s possible that if Jesus Christ Himself ran as a Democrat, even He couldn’t beat Bob Corker.
There’s an important reason why the Greens are running a Senate candidate, even though the race is certainly Quixotic, at least in terms of the possibility of a Green victory. The reason is that, in order to maintain our place on the ballot, according to state law, a statewide Green Party candidate needs to receive at least 2.5% of the vote. There are only two statewide races in 2012–the U.S. Presidency, and the U.S. Senate. Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein could do it for us, but running Martin Pleasant for Senate gives us two chances instead of one. Presuming the voting machines are fair, that is. And that’s a dicey proposition, as I’ve said many times before, but one we have to take.
And that’s the show for this week, and my show for this month. I had intended to talk about the continuing nefarious Obama-Monsanto connection, and what’s happening with the Occupy movement these days, but those stories will have to wait. Local news first! And finally, a song for our candidates, sung by yours truly:
music: Brother Martin, (if you‘re a) Green Party Figure (first link goes to Facebook site, second to a $0.99-to-download site, third to a free download site–you can listen to it for free on any of them)