published Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Chattanooga man embarrasses President Obama in Arkansas

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Chattanooga attorney John Wolfe embarrassed President Barack Obama on Tuesday by capturing 41 percent of the vote in Arkansas' Democratic primary with 39 percent of precincts reporting.

Wolfe, a 58-year-old Democrat who previously ran a half dozen unsuccessful campaigns for Congress, mayor and state Senate in Chattanooga, scored one of his best electoral showings ever Tuesday -- and he did so against an incumbent president of the United States who is sure to get his party's nomination this summer. According to unofficial results Tuesday night, Wolfe won 32,765 votes in the Arkansas presidential primary compared with 47,066 votes for Obama.

But Democratic Party officials in Arkansas said Wolfe's strong showing won't do him much good.

National Democrats have told the state party that they won't seat anyone who declares for Wolfe, said Candace Martin, state party spokeswoman. Wolfe failed to authorize a designated representative in Arkansas by a Feb. 20 deadline and also failed to submit a written statement outlining what steps he'd take to support the state Democratic Party's affirmative action plan to maximize the number of women, black, gay and other minority delegates at the convention.

Wolfe said Tuesday the voters should pick their candidate, not party bosses.

"They are treating this election like the coronation of a king, but this country declared war on that kind of monarchy rule in 1776," Wolfe said.

Wolfe ran unsuccessfully for Congress four times in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District and also lost in his bids for Chattanooga mayor and state senator from Chattanooga. His campaigns are largely self-financed, and he said he has had to continue his law practice in Chattanooga while campaigning in presidential primaries in New Hampshire, Louisiana, Arkansas and, next week, in Texas.

"I'm like David fighting Goliaths in these races, but so far I haven't found the right pebble [to strike down Goliath]," Wolfe said. "I know a lot of people don't like what the president has done, including me."

Wolfe said he thinks Obama should have pushed for a universal, single-payer health care plan and demanded more from the banks and financial institutions that the government bailed out following the 2008 financial meltdown. Contrary to Obama, Wolfe also said he doesn't favor gay marriages, although he said he does favor civil unions and equal protections and rights for gays.

Wolfe said if the party tries to deny him delegates due him at the National Democratic Party Convention in Charlotte, N.C., he will take legal action.

Wolfe received 17,804 votes in the Louisiana primary to capture 12 percent of the vote in that state's March primary, including getting a majority of the vote in at least two parishes. But the Louisiana Democratic Party has so far denied Wolfe any delegates.

Wolfe was the Democratic nominee for the 3rd Congressional District in 2002 and 2004, losing both times to former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., and in 2010, when he lost to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. He also ran in the 2001 Chattanooga mayoral race that Bob Corker won and lost in the 2007 10th District state Senate race in Chattanooga.

Before those races, Mr. Wolfe ran unsuccessfully in the 1998 Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District.

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