David Cook: Bob Corker versus the Write-In Mom

David Cook: Bob Corker versus the Write-In Mom

September 18th, 2012 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Sen. Bob Corker is running for re-election. He's the former mayor of Chattanooga and currently the 17th-richest person in Congress, with a personal worth just shy of $20 million, according to Roll Call.

He has raised more than $13 million for his campaign. Most recently, he held a $10,000-a-plate fundraising dinner at his home (for $5,000, donors got to have their picture taken with first lady nominee Ann Romney).

This election season, he's got two opponents.

• Mark Clayton, the accidental Democratic nominee, whose anti-gay politics led the state Democratic Party to disavow his campaign. (He's like Voldemort. The one who shall not be named.)

• Angelia Stinnett, a middle-class mom who sometimes cuts coupons to pay for her son's trumpet lessons and has a campaign warchest that might buy her enough gas to get to Washington.

"About $100," she said.

And that's how she wants it.

"I'm not asking people for money," she said. "I'm asking people to get involved."

Stinnett, 42, is waging a write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate. After deciding that neither Clayton nor Corker - she has nicknamed them "hate and greed" - don't represent normal, middle-class, working-class folks, Stinnett decided to enter the race. She speaks at any event she can, has a growing Facebook following and represents an interesting demographic: a powerful and outspoken Southern woman.

"Dogged," she said about herself. "A honey badger."

A recent Gallup poll found that 10 percent of Americans are happy with the current Congress.

"They get away with too much," she said. "No one is representing the people, the families."

It is a strikingly different experience, speaking to Stinnett rather than other people running for office. She is, well, normal. Somebody you'd see at the grocery store line or Sunday afternoon matinee. She drives a minivan. And she is angry about the mess we're in and is fighting to stop it.

Her platform is based on the promotion and defense of the middle class. End the war. Incentives for corporations to keep jobs in-country. Make health care affordable. Green jobs, infrastructure and innovation.

"The middle class is the backbone of our country, not the blood bank," she said.

We met Monday over sweet tea and grapefruit juice at a downtown coffee house. She brought a baby with her. A 4-month-old in a pink-and-green onesie (didn't think I knew that word, did you?) with a pacifier and bottle of formula nearby. She's got "relative" custody of the baby girl and is trying to legally adopt.

It was deeply symbolic of her campaign. Running for office, with an infant.

Stinnett said she grew up in Blount County poverty - a trailer park - and, after serving in the Tennessee Air National Guard, she graduated from the University of Tennessee-Martin with a degree in political science and communications. Moving here with her husband - he works at Volkswagen - and elementary-school-aged son, she increased her political activism.

The chances of her winning against Corker are slim. She's not focused on winning so much as empowering citizens. Stinnett believes our greatest strength is knowledge and has formed a Truth Campaign: Groups of 50 or so informed citizens from each county who serve as watchdogs over their politicians' voting habits.

"How does a middle-class mother take on Bob Corker?" she said. "One person at a time, one event at a time."

Tuesday's online-only column is based around sharing a meal or drinks with someone in Southeast Tennessee or North Georgia. Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.