Friday marks the first day of early voting for the August 2 primary, the first election since this year's post-Census redistricting. Chances are, your district looks mighty different than it did last time you voted for your state and federal elected officials—in fact, there's a pretty good chance you're in a whole new district.
If you live west of Knox County, you might be in the 3rd Congressional District instead of Rep. John J. Duncan's 2nd District. If you live northwest of the city, you might be in the brand spanking new state House District 89. And if you're in South Knoxville, you might now be in state House District 13.
The good news is that if you're planning to vote in the Democratic primary, none of this matters. The only contested race on the left is for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Bob Corker. And if you don't happen to live in District 13 or 89, you won't have too much of a dilemma in the Republican primary—only Corker and Duncan's seats are contested, and those mainly by unknowns.
Still, to make it easier for you, we've compiled a rundown of who's running for what. This week, we're focusing on the federal races; next week we'll have the state round-up. (So just wait a couple of days to vote, okay?) And if you need to find out what district you're in now, check the Knox County Election Commission website at knoxvotes.org, stat!
Republican Bob Corker is up for reelection, but unlike his first race in 2006 against then-U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, he doesn't face any big-name opponents, in either the Republican or Democratic primary.
On the Republican side, Corker is up against Fred R. Anderson, Mark Twain Clemens, Brenda S. Lenard, and Zach Poskevich.
Anderson lives in Maryville and is a retired Vietnam and Iraq War veteran and a community theater buff who says he strongly disagrees with Corker. He describes himself as "100 percent pro-life, 100 percent 2nd Amendment" and as an "ultra-conservative." He says he'd like to repeal the 16th Amendment, which permits a federal income tax, and feels that the dissolution of constitutionally appointed states rights began when Andrew Jackson took the presidency.
"This country was never set up to be a democracy, and that changed in Andrew Jackson's time," Anderson says, explaining his dislike of big, centralized government.
Clemens, who goes by Mark Twain—and that apparently really is his real name—describes himself on Twitter as "Layed off Explosives Engineer. Tired of DC's BS. I have a working plan! No one else does." The Bedford County native is running on a platform to cut government spending; he's also proposing building a new transcontinental passenger rail system. "This project will be larger than the TVA; it will create real jobs almost instantly," he told the Shelbyville Times-Gazette last month.
Sweetwater's Lenard, 45, says she is a Frederick Douglass Republican, which is a movement to encourage black voters to embrace a conservative philosophy. On her website she states, "I am running because I HAVE TO run, to help return America to our God and founding principles, to limited Constitutional government with unlimited individual opportunity for my children and yours." She also claims Tea Party support.
Poskevich is a Gulf War veteran and technology consultant from Hendersonville positioning himself as a more conservative choice than Corker. His website emphasizes that he "is not a career politician," and he wants to abolish the current tax code, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and sponsor a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
Lenard and Poskevich have raised the most money of Corker's opponents, but their thousands of dollars are paltry compared to the $8 million Corker had in the bank in March. Still, conservatives angry at Corker's ties to the banking industry—Goldman Sachs and its employees are Corker's largest donors, and J.P. Morgan and its employees have given more to Corker than to any other candidate—could turn out to vote and make Election Day more interesting.
On the Democratic ballot, seven names are competing to face Corker in November. The best known of these is Park Overall, a former television star who played the sassy nurse Laverne Todd on the NBC sitcom Empty Nest in the early 1990s. The Greeneville native calls herself a progressive Democrat who cares about the environment, supports same-sex marriage, and is pro-union.
Her most serious opponent, at least when it comes to fund-raising, is Larry Crim of Nashville. He is the chief executive of the mental-health nonprofit Christian Counseling Centers of America, and he has proposed a number of bills that he would introduce if elected, including one called the National Road Improvement and Jobs Act. This bill, he says, would "catch up with the long overdue need to improve, expand, widen, and extend our national highways and interstate systems to accommodate the ever increasing traffic and transportation demands for citizen, commercial, emergency, and military purposes."
Mark E. Clayton, from Whites Creek outside Nashville, calls himself "a committed Christian" who is a "proud constitutionalist" and pro-life and also opposed to NAFTA.
Benjamin Roberts of Jasper advocates a simplified tax code and working with politicians like Rand Paul to monitor banking systems and promises to only serve two terms if elected.
T.K. Owens, a Johnson City educator, is running on a platform of green energy, education, and protecting the environment. While his website says, "Let's stop legislating morals in this country," he told the Elizabethton Star that he would support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.
"I find it personally insulting as an African-American that people have used the Constitution and the issue of civil rights to argue for the support of same-sex unions," he said.
Dave Hancock of Maryville ran unsuccessfully in 2010 against Duncan. He says has been an adviser and consultant to the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and nuclear and mining industries, and he's running on a platform to create jobs, especially green and industrial ones. He is opposed to NAFTA and supports capital punishment for drug makers. He also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Gary Gene Davis is from Nashville and says he supports reducing pollution and cutting needless spending programs. "Our past ideas about pensions, immigration, foreign interventions, national debt, the loss of jobs and tort reform can't be ignored any longer," he says on his website.
2nd Congressional District
At this point, the November ballot seems likely to have longtime Congressman Duncan facing unopposed Democrat Troy Goodale, but lesser known Republican candidates are hoping for a huge upset at the polls.
Joe Leinweber ran unsuccessfully against Duncan in 2010 as an Independent. The Tea Party-affiliated candidate says on his website, "The barrage of bills proposed virtually daily by both houses are an insult to the vision of our founders and in 99.9% of the cases these bills are unconstitutional. ... We need to return to the foundation of this nation and the roots of the Constitution."
Nick Ciparro is an audio engineer currently back in school studying chemical engineering and material sciences. Ciparro ran against Marilyn Roddy in 2004 for City Council and ran in 2010 for the state Senate seat won by then-state Rep. Stacey Campfield. He says he would vote for term limits and move to ban lobbyists from Capitol Hill.