Al Gore, Jr.
Any list of legendary Tennessee Democrats would no doubt include these names, a quartet of men who represent the caliber of candidate the once-proud Tennessee Democratic Party was able to produce.
Interestingly, all four men held the same Senate seat, the one now held by Republican Bob Corker.
And it’s the one sought by Mark Clayton, the Tennessee Democratic Party’s nominee to take on the popular, well-funded former mayor of Chattanooga.
Clayton is the TNDP’s nominee in the sense that Clayton won the primary. He is, however, not a Democrat according to the party itself. He has strident anti-gay views — in fact, he’s the vice-president of a group labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He is also vociferously opposed to abortion rights (not that that in and of itself disqualifies someone from being a Tennessee Democrat).He also believes an interstate highway in the Midwest is part of some kind of NAFTA-related New World Order conspiracy.
And that’s where things get off the rails.
So the TNDP has disavowed him, urging supporters to write in the candidate of their choice. The party’s excuse? Clayton had the advantage of the alphabet, first on the primary ballot’s list of no-names, perennials and also Park Overall, the drawling Greenville-born actress best known for her work as the sassy nurse Laverne on the Richard Mulligan vehicle Empty Nest. Overall, by the way, was widely considered to be the TNDP’s first choice to face Corker.
Flummoxed by the alphabet, the TNDP flounders again. A candidate far to Corker’s right bears the party label in the only statewide race on the ballot.
The legislature likely will grow more crimson; in the state senate, the reduced-to-a-rump Democrats may as well be as relevant as the Know Nothings (a party, by the way, more suited to Clayton’s political beliefs).
Where does this once-proud party go from here? TNDP leaders have already come up with the novel idea of vetting folks who purport to run as Democrats.
Chairman Chip Forrester was supposed to unite the often-disparate factions of Democrats. Upon election, he even shed his bow tie to comfort the party’s rural wing. But now he’s presided over a disastrous turn of electoral events in 2010. He apologized, promised things would be better in 2012.
It’s not off to a promising start.