Rub Some Dirt On It: The August Ballot is an Abrasion on Democracy's Knee

Early voting started last Friday, but you haven't voted yet. You're still hoping an asteroid will strike the planet or the governor will sign a stealth bill requiring proof that you've donated $10,000 to political campaigns to be eligible to vote.

Since it is a primary, only Democrats and Republicans are on the ballot. As usual, the Democratic ballot offers a smattering of uncontested races. One exception is the race for Bob Corker's U.S. Senate seat, where seven Democrats are vying for nomination. Most inspiring is Park Overall, a feisty Greeneville native who has been active in efforts to protect the Nolichucky River and the natural beauty of northeast Tennessee.

A serious ear infection sidelined Overall for a couple of months, but she is recovering and back on the campaign trail, where her smart criticisms of Corker and D.C. politics resonate with the 9 in 10 citizens who disapprove of Congress.

Another accomplished woman, retired Oak Ridge physician Mary Headrick, is running for the 3rd Congressional seat against incumbent Chuck Fleischmann and a bevy of challengers. The 3rd District stretches from Chattanooga to the Kentucky border, dodging Knox County, but including some or all of several bordering counties to the north and west.

Headrick has applied her analytical mind to politics and diagnosed the country's ills. For her, the Citizens United decision is America's gravest problem, getting money out of elections her top priority. Her background as a physician gives her an understanding of how corporate money has eroded our health-care system and how we can restore sanity and fairness to health spending.

Comfortably retired, Headrick's moral compass is free to find true north. Rarely in politics do you find a candidate so reliable to stand for the people. Mary and her husband are two of the brightest and best informed people you could hope to converse with. No East Tennessee candidate could do more to improve Congress by winning office than Mary Headrick in the 3rd.

On the Republican side, most of the contests are over who can keep a straight face through the most empty platitudes and lies. Scottie Mayfield's folksy "try my ice cream" pitch is not so charming when he wants you to swallow rancid Republican pablum. The incumbent brags about voting to "repeal Obamacare" and promises jobs, but the whole Republican field has nothing but stale solutions and obstructions.

In his State of the Union address, the president collected about a dozen Republican job-creation plans into a jobs bill, which caused Republicans to suddenly hate their own ideas, ideas that were working at the state level. Fleischmann was a loyal soldier in that about-face and has worked to prevent employment gains. Helping America is not as important as hurting Obama to House Republicans. It is no mystery why Congress is so despised.

Locally, the Knox County Charter Review Committee has inflicted its eight most trivial charter amendments on August voters, saving the big boys for November. How trivial? One amendment demands rounding up when calculating how many votes makes "at least 2/3." Another changes "shall take effect on" to "shall not take effect until" so the charter will "conform with state law." Seriously, Question 8 substitutes a double negative for a positive. They want us to vote on that!

Only Question 2 is worth a vote. It deletes a long list of boards and committees that should be spelled out in the ordinary county code, not in Knox County's founding document. This change is not a big deal, but simplifying and worthwhile.

The rest of the proposed charter amendments are laughably minor or downright wrong-headed. Questions 1 and 3 serve no real purpose except to be obstacles to future reforms of the fee-office fiefdoms. In fact, if Question 1 passes, we may regret it as soon as November.

Yes on 2, No on the rest, and don't count on a reprieve from God or the governor.