John Jay Hooker, who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1970 and 1998, says he has been besieged with people urging him to run for governor again this year with no other Democrat planning to challenge Gov. Bill Haslam’s re-election – at least so far.
“I’ve been thinking about it, but the truth is I don’t want to run,” he said. “ I’m bored with it…disenchanted with politics… I’m too old. I’m tired.”
Still, Hooker, 83, said he is not flatly ruling out the possibility. Noting a state law allowing a nominee to step aside for health reasons, Hooker said that he has thought of running with the notion of then resigning the nomination. That would allow the state Democratic Executive Committee to chose a substitute nominee.
“I rather start me an organization, rent me a bus and go around in these counties as a friend of the (state) constitution” opposing the judicial selection amendment that will be on November’s ballot, said Hooker. “Some of the Republican legislators have told me that they would join me on that.”
Frank Cagle, meanwhile, says Democrats ought to draft Hooker to run for governor. He even envisions Hooker challenging Haslam to a series of debates across the state.
There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Haslam would show up for the debates, but an empty chair or a cardboard cutout would suffice. It might generate some enthusiasm among the voters. It ought to generate some news coverage.
Call it the John Jay Travelin’ Salvation Show. Maybe there are some Nashville musicians who are Democrats, or at least who would be willing to play some on TV. Invite teachers to talk about the problems they see in Haslam’s education reforms.
…The Democrats are not likely to have a lot of money to throw around. They can’t match Haslam in television commercials. The party’s legislative candidates will also be underfunded given the supermajority that is the Republican caucus—in both Houses.
What’s needed is excitement. Novelty. Running campaigns as has been the rule in recent years put the Democrats at a decided disadvantage. Political reporters will likely opine that Haslam is unbeatable. So get out there in the hustings and get coverage by local television and radio stations and local newspapers.
…You can consider Hooker a placeholder. A vehicle for a protest vote. Or just someone who can get the attention of voters to help other Democrats on the ticket.
So scoff at the idea. Explain why it’s foolhardy. But I’ve got one question for you:
What’s your plan?