ON THE WEB
* To view a website on Basil Marceaux’s gubernatorial candidacy, go to http://politics.freesitenow.com/basilmarceauxforgovernor
* To watch Basil Marceaux’s comments on WSMV-TV got to:
NASHVILLE — He is an improbable longshot in the polls, but Tennessee Republican gubernatorial hopeful Basil Marceaux Sr., of Chattanooga, rules on the Internet, where his views have gone “viral.”
The candidate’s promise to “immune you from all state crimes for the rest of you (sic) life!” and his desire that “everyone carry guns” has proven to be catnip to an army of delighted Internet bloggers and irresistible to talk radio and MSNBC as well.
He’s been endorsed by the hillbilly comedy duo Jackie Broyles and Dunlap on Red State Update. A Nashville Scene blogger proclaimed Marceaux an “Internet Superstar” and warned GOP front-runner Bill Haslam that there is a “mighty dark horse pounding toward you in the outside lane.”
The website Wonkette told readers “you have a new 2010 election boyfriend” and urged them to “just look at his website. It is indescribably perfect. What can be made fun of first? We just want to live in this man’s brain forever.”
But this is no joke to Marceaux, a perennial candidate who is also running in the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District
“I always knew it would (attention) happen because I’m sure everyone feels like me. It just takes guts,” the one-time Marine said.
Voters “like my gun views,” he said. “I want everyone to have a gun. If I think that someone doesn’t have one, maybe I’ll fine them $10.”
Former Hamilton County Sheriff John Cupp, who said Marceaux once threatened him with “citizen’s arrest,” was initially dumbfounded over Marceaux’s newfound celebrity.
“You’re kidding me,” Cupp said, going on to recall how Marceaux once sued him and then-Gov. Don Sundquist.
On its website, the Tennessee Bar Association references an early 2000s case in which Marceaux claims the governor, sheriffs, the General Assembly and others were guilty of “kidnapping, extortion and racketeering” through the application of laws calling for mandatory car insurance and routine traffic stops. The complaint was dismissed.
Internet interest in Marceaux ignited last week after he appeared on Nashville’s WSMV-TV in a news segment in which all five Republican and Democratic candidates for governor held forth on any topic they wished.
WSVM-TV - Jul 28, 2010 - Basil Marceaux, Republican candidate for Tennessee governor, states his case in a video on Nashville's WSVM. The video has gone viral, attracting followers and ranking high in various search engines.
“I’m Basil Marceaux dot.com, the Republican candidate for governor,” he says to the camera. “I’d like to recall all permits and registration for guns. Everyone carry guns. If you kill someone, no, you get murdered. You go to jail.”
After playing the Marceaux video on Wednesday on MSNBC, NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd chuckled, saying, “There it is, Marceaux for governor.”
Other Marceaux campaign planks include planting grass or vegetation “across the state on any vacant lot and sell it for gas so we can use it for our expenses,” Marceaux said. “Also I’m going to remove all gold-fringe flags and fly the real flag with the three stripes. I also want to stop traffic stops.”
Internet bloggers obsessed over the flag reference, mistakenly thinking he said “gold finch flags.” Because he is missing several teeth, Marceaux noted, it is sometimes difficult for people to understand him.
A Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey, conducted last week for the Times Free Press and other major state newspapers, show Marceaux with just 1 percent support in the gubernatorial race, dwarfed by support for GOP rivals Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.
But on Google, a search using the terms “Marceaux” and “governor” revealed 125,000 hits for the dark horse on Wednesday. That compares to 76,900 for Wamp, 64,900 for Ramsey and 57,000 for Haslam.
Much of Marceaux’s political views stem from a complex belief that federal officials have ignored an 1866 law involving the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency set up after the Civil War to help the freed slaves. Marceaux claims to be an agent of the bureau and says the government has violated civil rights nationwide for more than a century.
Former Sheriff Cupp said the fact the Internet is obsessing over Marceaux “tells you how sad the news is on other things, that he looks like a ray of hope.”
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Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...