Hank Hayes reports on a trio of minor party candidates from Northeast Tennessee:
History suggests Kermit Steck, Bob Smith and Suzanne “Flower” Parker have no chance of being elected to public office, but the three Northeast Tennesseans have won the right to put their names before the electorate.
They all insist third political parties are viable alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties.
On Aug. 9, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Tennessee’s ballot access law for newly qualified political parties and ordered the state to put Steck, Smith and Parker on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.
They are among about a dozen candidates listed statewide as “minor party candidates” for the general election ballot.
Steck, 56, is the Constitution Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican incumbent Bob Corker. Smith, 70, is the Green Party’s candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Phil Roe. And Parker, 40, is the Green Party’s candidate in Tennessee’s up-for-grabs 3rd House District.
The three-judge appeals court determined the Green Party’s past electoral support of almost 20,000 votes and Constitution Party’s prior collection of nearly 10,000 signatures entitled both parties to recognition and ballot access.
What all three candidates have in common is they are running their campaigns on a shoestring budget and depending upon Internet networking and social media to get their message out.
When he is not campaigning, Steck drives from his Baileyton home to Knoxville on weekdays for his job working for a general contractor.
He believes the Tennessee Democratic Party’s rejection of its U.S. Senate nominee Mark Clayton will help him. And Steck wants people to know the Constitution Party’s primary emphasis is to govern according to the U.S. Constitution.
“I believe there are a lot of conservative people, constitutionally minded people who are wanting us to get back to the basics of governing,” said Steck, a U.S. Army veteran and former Republican. “Less governing is better, and it is more effective governing.”
Smith, a retiree and Navy veteran who lives outside Greeneville, said he’s on the ballot because Congress can’t approve a budget and is being run by lobbyists.
“They’re stealing Social Security and Medicare,” Smith said of Congress. “There is no way in the world I would let them privatize Social Security.”
Parker, a Sullivan County Schools substitute teacher who has two teenage daughters, said she has dreamed about running for public office since she was a kid.
“I dreamed what a great way to make the world a better place, but I’ve never been to law school, and most politicians have a law degree — not all of them but a large percentage of them…” Parker said. “Life sometimes dictates what you can and cannot do. As I put a stamp on my campaign, I realize jobs and the economy are the most important thing.”
Both Steck and Parker said it’s breakout time for third political parties.
“We’ve been fighting for a long time to get ballot access, and we have hit that point,” Steck said. “People are looking for alternatives to the two mainline parties. … People should take a hard look. … We are the answer to what is going on in this country.”
Said Parker: “I really don’t have the resources to make big signs and have commercials on TV or anything like that, but I feel like people are very disenchanted with the Democrats and the Republicans. I feel like this would be a great time for the Green Party to have a chance.”
Smith said he realized the Green Party was an excellent way to express his Native American values.
“My platform as a congressional candidate is to bring those values to bear on the many problems that have arisen since illegal immigrants from Europe hijacked my continent,” he said.
The Green Party stresses 10 key values including social justice, grass-roots democracy, ecological wisdom and gender equity.
Parker’s “Flower” nickname won’t be on the ballot, but she said that’s how people know her.
“I’ve been going by ‘Flower’ for more than 20 years. … It’s not a legal part of my name, but so many people know me by that — Flower Parker,” she said.
For more about the Constitution Party of Tennessee go to www.constitutionpartyof tennessee.com .
For more about the Green Party of Tennessee go to www.greenpartyoftennessee.org.
Parker’s Facebook page is located at https:// www.facebook.com/SuzanneFlowerParker?ref=hl.
Smith’s Facebook page is located at https:// www.facebook.com/groups/291720267523259/ .