I was ready to make an endorsement for Jamie Woodson's state senate seat before late-breaking news hit that Gloria Johnson has entered the race. I had written up complaints about Democrats not running a candidate, leaving Knox County in the unlikely quandary of no clear choice among three female candidates. Drawing three men and getting three bums is no surprise, but three women?
As it turned out, when I looked closely at Marilyn Roddy, Becky Duncan Massey, and Victoria DeFreese, I found a candidate I could tolerate. But now there is no need for mere toleration. Johnson is the best candidate in the race, the one who can be trusted to act on behalf of people, not corporations. She is a school teacher who has tirelessly fought for political progress locally and in national campaigns.
My primary criterion for any candidate for any office is whether they can be trusted with my vote. There are liars out there, and panderers, patronizers, and philistines. The disease is particularly acute among Republicans, but it is a symptom of the glad-handing and fund-raising candidates must do while campaigning, so it taints both parties. It has not tainted Gloria Johnson, and I doubt it ever will.
Roddy is the smartest of the Republicans and the candidate most like Sen. Woodson. In kinder times, her patrician service might be tolerable, but we need an ass-kicker right now. Roddy's eager abandonment of a mayoral run put the stink of ambition on her senate campaign, and it suggests a lack of passion, disinterest in whether she'd be serving the city or state or working as a legislator or executive.
Massey has an impressive record of service. Softball coach, Girl Scout leader, and executive director of the Sertoma Center, Massey is accomplished and dedicated, but her service makes her perfect for an executive office. Massey is good with people but naive on policy. In radio interviews, she is weak tea. She should run for mayor or for a fee-office job, not for senator.
The state Legislature appointed Massey to a committee in the Department of Intellectual Disabilities. I think that is supposed to be a good thing. I am not sure why Gov. Haslam wanted to create a new department in state government, and what did intellectual disabilities do to deserve the honor? If the name were not so perfect for a clandestine operation courting Republican voters with state resources, I would be less suspicious.
The third Republican, DeFreese, is running "From My Front Porch" videos on her campaign website. Endearingly, she is almost inaudible from the drone of katydids. That is a good thing.
It means she lives in a place where developers did not destroy the woods so viciously that nothing survived. Trees in her neighborhood are full of noisy green crickets disguised as leaves! No sounds affirms a Southern Appalachian sense of home like the pulsing rhythm of katydids on a July night, and the sonic interference in the DeFreese videos speaks to a genuineness lacking in many politicians.
On her website she quotes the Tennessee Constitution: "That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; for the advancement of those ends they have at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper."
What is more genuine than the conviction that we can abolish our government when it is failing or upend it when it becomes a trough? DeFreese is speaking out against Bush's No Child Left Behind for its detrimental effects on local schools. She is not a partisan and is not immune to reason, traits increasingly rare on the right.
If there is to be government abolishing going on, I want DeFreese on my side. If there is a trough to be kicked over—and corporate funding of campaigns is a trough—DeFreese can put a boot in a lobbyist's gut on my behalf. I trust her with my vote.
If you really want to shake up the government, however, send the teacher to Nashville in November.