Amendments math makes governor votes crucial

Amendments math makes governor votes crucial

August 15th, 2014 in Opinion Times

There's a lot at stake - especially for Democrats - in the November general election. But not for reasons you may think.

Tennessee voters chose by about 3-1 to vote on the Republican primary ballot in August. But the 225,617 voters who chose the Democratic ballot named Charles V. "Charlie" Brown as the Democratic nominee for governor.

Perhaps it was the familiar "Charlie Brown" name, or maybe it was just the advantage of the alphabet and his name was first on the list of largely unknown candidates. It certainly was not because of any campaigning that Charles V. "Charlie" Brown waged, because the total sum of his campaigning was to get 25 names on a petition to run for office and the creation of a Facebook page with his first name misspelled.

Slate.com called Brown "Tennessee's accidental Democratic nominee for governor, a 72-year-old hunter who didn't do any campaigning."

Slate writer Caleb Hannan writes that Brown told him on election night as vote totals came in that the Lord asked him to run for higher office, and he did. But he didn't respond to any requests for pre-election interviews and he didn't even put up a sign in his own yard because, "I don't believe in them."

He does believe in hunting and fishing, and he told Slate that he "sent a letter to the editor of nearly every paper in the state ... that ended with the plea: 'Please join The NRA'." Slate writes: "Few publications actually ran the letter, which began with him saying that he 'would like to strap [Gov. Haslam's] butt to the [electric] chair and give him about half the jolt.' He also said that if he won 'we will have hog hunting again.'"

Most political pundits are blaming the Democrats for not being able to field "viable" candidates. The real blame is probably on the Tennessee media for not doing due diligence to seek out, even if it meant door-to-door knocking, the candidates and interview them before the night of the election. If Slate.com could find Brown, why couldn't we?

But back to the "lot at stake" thought.

As the The Tennessean's Michael Cass pointed out Tuesday, skipping the governor vote because Haslam has so many advantages (incumbency, name at top of ballot because incumbency beats the alphabet, and a real platform beyond Brown's like-minded kinship with Duck Dynasty types) could cheat Democrats of a say on constitutional amendments.

The fewer votes in the governor's race means it will take fewer votes to pass an amendment to remove abortion protections from our Constitution or an amendment to inject politics into judicial nominations. That's because a constitutional amendment must receive a majority of the number of votes cast in the gubernatorial election, no matter how many people vote on the amendment.

In the 3rd District, it could be even more devastating as it would shrink the chances of Democrat Mary Headrick to overtake tea party incumbent House member Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who won his party nomination by fewer than 1,500 votes.

Even last-trailing local and perennial mayor and governor candidate Basil Marceaux Sr. -- who has introduced himself as Basil Marceaux.com and said his platform included learning why the country has a "fake flag," -- tallied more votes statewide (13,051) than Fleischmann's 3rd District margin over 27-year-old Weston Wamp.

Dems, don't sit this one out. Four ballot measures, all significant changes proposed to our state Constitution, are certified for the Nov. 4 statewide election in Tennessee:

• Amendment 1 empowers the legislature to enact, amend or repeal statutes regarding abortion.

• Amendment 2 empowers the governor to appoint judges subject to confirmation by the General Assembly.

• Amendment 3 prohibits the legislature from levying or permitting any tax upon payroll or earned personal income.

• Amendment 4 empowers the legislature to permit lotteries for events that benefit 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organizations.

Since 1998, seven constitutional amendments have been on the state ballot and all have been approved by voters, according to ballotpedia.org.

As noted: A lot is at stake in November.