By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Actress Park Overall says she’s always had an interest in politics so she’s mounting a bid to be the Democrat who takes the longshot chance at unseating Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.
“I believe in food stamps, I believe in the poor, I believe in welfare,” said Overall, who starred in the popular television series “Empty Nest” in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“As you can see, I have no chance of winning this election,” she said with a laugh.
Overall is one of seven candidates on the Democratic ballot for the Aug. 2 primary. Corker is being challenged by four Republicans in the GOP primary.
None of the nearly dozen challengers comes anywhere close to Corker’s fundraising prowess. Only two –Republicans Brenda Lenard and Zach Poskevich– have raised more than $40,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Corker has raised about $11 million and has roughly $7.4 million on hand.
“We’re very pleased where things are in terms of the race,” said Todd Womack, Corker’s chief of staff.
Lenard said she’s not intimidated by Corker’s money and has adopted a “David and Goliath type mentality.”
“That is, I cannot just stand by and be intimidated by the $11 million,” said the 45-year-old, who is working on a doctorate in political science at the University of Tennessee. “I have to look at what I believe, and … not how much money is in his war chest.”
Democratic challenger Mark Clayton said he doesn’t believe voters will be wooed by Corker’s large war chest.
Clayton, 35, said during an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2008 that his campaign spent about $300, but that he “got over 32,000 votes.”
“So money doesn’t … always mean votes,” said Clayton, who has been an insurance agent for several years.
Corker had it much tougher during his first run for the Senate in 2006, battling two well-known Republicans in the primary and just edging then U.S. Rep. Harold Ford to win the general election.
Regardless of how much money he has, at least two Republican challengers said Corker shouldn’t be re-elected because he too often votes with Democrats.
“Calling Bob Corker conservative would be like calling (President Barack) Obama conservative,” said Poskevich, a 42-year-old technology specialist.
Fred Anderson, a retired military veteran, agreed.
“Mr. Corker is overall a good man, but his policies and a lot of the bills he has put forth in the U.S. Senate were nothing but total bigger government … instead of individuals controlling their own lives,” Anderson said.
Poskevich added that an intrusive government is problematic.
“Our founders knew that an overpowering government would not be transparent; would grow to increase corruption,” he said. “And that’s what we see today.”
Other challengers said they don’t see Corker doing enough to help small businesses and close loopholes used by large corporations. Democrat Larry Crim, who heads a mental health care facility, said an “inequitable tax code … allows huge multi-billion dollar corporations to pay nothing in taxes.”
“We need corporate tax reform in this nation,” said the 56-year-old, who recently filed for bankruptcy. “And that’s one of the reasons I’m running.”
Womack said Corker is proposing tax reform legislation. Earlier this month, Corker told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he’s developed a plan to reform taxes and balance the federal budget, but he’s not planning to release details until after the November election.
The senator said he envisions his proposal as a path to compromise for Republicans who want to cut spending and Democrats who want to raise taxes.
Corker criticized a $105 billion transportation bill that passed Congress last month and was regarded by some as progress in a long-running political deadlock over spending and taxes. He said the deal, which prevented an increase in student loan rates and kept money flowing for transportation projects, spent $2.5 billion more than was allowed under last year’s budget compromise between Congress and the Obama administration.
Corker said getting control of the rising federal debt is a bigger priority than infrastructure spending.
“I think he is more energized than ever,” Womack told The Associated Press last week. “He really believes the biggest issue probably our country faces right now are these fiscal issues that we can solve.”
The other Republican on the primary ballot is Mark Clemens. The other Democrats on the ballot are Gary Davis, Dave Hancock, T.K. Owens and Benjamin Roberts.