NASHVILLE — Dear Tennessee Democrats: You have done it again.
After nominating anti-gay rights activist Mark Clayton in 2012 as your U.S. Senate nominee, meet the man you nominated last week as your party's champion against Republican Gov. Bill Haslam this fall.
It's Charlie Brown.
But unlike the lovable "Peanuts" cartoon character, Charles V. "Charlie" Brown, of Oakdale, Tenn., is definitely not the kind of guy who'd tolerate Lucy Van Pelt snatching a football away from him.
His top campaign plank? Well, the 72-year-old retired businessman and Realtor wants to stick Haslam in the state's electric chair and "give him about half the jolt."
In his reasoning, outlined in a letter to Tennessee newspapers earlier this year, Brown links two controversies. One is Haslam's signing of a bill this year reinstating use of Tennessee's electric chair in the event lethal injections are banned.
The other is the Haslam administration's controversial $10 million purchase in 2010 of a Knoxville building from a Haslam family business associate for use by a community college. Critics questioned whether the building was worth that much.
"After what he has done to my friends in knox [sic] county, I would like to strap his butt to the chair and give him about half the jolt," Brown wrote in the letter. "He raised the peoples [sic] taxes when he bought that piece of property and took it off the tax books."
A Haslam spokeswoman declined to comment Friday and Saturday.
Contacted Friday, the nominee confirmed that yes, it was his letter and he's not about to flip-flop.
"I'd like to strap his butt to the chair for what he did to the people of Knoxville," Brown said. He said he's not sure what effect a half-jolt would have.
Brown was entirely obscure before he captured the Democratic nomination with 43.5 percent of the vote in a four-man field.
Up until Friday, the only feature on his campaign's Facebook page was a picture of Brown with three strapping catfish he'd caught. He has since replaced it with a photo of himself and his wife.
The campaign's already turning ugly. Critics are carping that his first name on the page is spelled "Chrles."
"I was kind of in a hurry and I just left the 'a' out," Brown explained. "People's looking for everything."
All four of the Democratic candidates were largely unknown except for John McKamey, a one-time Sullivan County executive who said he was running in hopes of keeping the party from repeating the 2012 disaster involving Clayton.
Current Democratic Chairman Roy Herron, a former state senator expected to seek a second term as party chairman, did not respond to a request for comment on Brown's nomination.
But in a chain of emails obtained by the Nashville Scene, Democrats on the state executive committee demanded Friday to know who Brown is.
Executive Committee member Joan Hill cited Brown's letter and groaned, "Per Blount County dems, 'we are screwed.'"
She later added, "Roy, are you out there? Can you please respond to the questions about Mr. Brown?"
Asked how he won the primary election, Brown replied, "The Lord."
Of course, he had some advantages.
"They said I was unknown -- I've been in the newspaper for years under 'Peanuts,'" he quipped.
Moreover, his name was first on the ballot.
Brown has other campaign issues besides giving Haslam that half jolt. He'd like to raise interstate speed limits to 80 mph -- he says everyone already drives that speed anyway. And he wants people to join the National Rifle Association.
In his letters and in Friday's interview, Brown said he's also furious over the clear-cutting of trees on property owned by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
"They're stealing our timber," he charged during the telephone interview. "Nobody knows where the money's going."
He also lashed Haslam for his overhauls of civil service rights for state employees and effectively ending tenure protections for teachers.
"I have never seen any politician pick on working people and run for office again," Brown said. "Have you?"
Brown ran for the party's nomination back in 2002, losing in a field that included eventual governor Phil Bredesen. Brown said he spent $19 and got 20,000 votes.
He said he spent "quite a bit" on this campaign. Asked how much, Brown said, "I am not going to go there." But he hasn't filed a financial disclosure, which he'd have to do if he spent $1,000 or more.
So what's Brown going to do in the general election?
"Really boost it up," the nominee vowed, saying he plans to visit all of Tennessee's 95 counties. "Bring everything up front."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.
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, ...