Congressman Cohen backs John Jay Hooker for governor (& other strategic amendment voting notes)

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen is urging that voters cast their ballots for independent candidate John Jay Hooker in the governor’s race next month, reports Jackson Baker.

Cohen, the Democratic congressman from Memphis’ 9th District and a longtime exponent of women’s rights, doesn’t really think John Jay Hooker, a onetime Democratic lion who’s on the ballot as an independent, can win the governorship away from Republican governor Bill Haslam, who’s a virtual shoo-in. But he’s not much enamored of Charlie Brown, the East Tennessee retired contractor who won the Democrats’ largely overlooked gubernatorial primary on the strength of a familiar cartoon name.

And, as Cohen explained to attendees at a well-attended “Vote No on 1” rally held by the Tennessee Democratic Party at the Racquet Club last week, the fate of Amendment 1, which would strengthen restrictions on abortion, will be settled Yes or No on November 4 depending on which side gets a numerical majority based on the total votes in the governor’s race.

The way it works out mathematically, an avoidance of the governor’s race coupled with a Yes vote of any one of the four constitutional amendments on the fall ballot would lower the threshold for that amendment’s chances, while a vote for governor along with a no vote would raise the threshold.

So it was that Cohen ended up touting Hooker, an octogenarian lawyer and erstwhile friend of the Kennedy clan who was a valuable political property once upon a time, running second in the 1966 Democratic gubernatorial primary to ultimate winner Buford Ellington and winning the primary I 1970, only to lose to the GOP’s candidate, Memphis dentist Winfield Dunn.

Hooker had a few chances to get back in the limelight after that and was the Democratic nominee for governor (against Republican incumbent Don Sundquist) as recently as 1998, but his recent political forays have been mainly as a litigant against the “Tennessee Plan,” a method that allows state appellate justices to stay in office via retention votes rather than through straight-out contested elections.

…“Do what I’m going to do, vote for John Jay!” said Cohen.

Note: Supporters of Amendment 1 are also noting the requirement that it receive a majority of votes in the gubernatorial election – and some advocate skipping the governor’s race to enhance prospects of passage (example HERE — with a lot of confused commentors.). Others stop short of actually urging the governor’s race be ignored on the ballot, but point out the impact, as in this excerpt from a Tennessee Baptist and Reflector article quoting David Fowler, a former state senator and now president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee:

“The other side doesn’t have to convince you to vote no,” Fowler observed. “They just have to convince you that you’re not sure of what you know.”

Fowler stressed that Tennesseans must resist the temptation to not vote on Amendment 1 because they are confused about the issue.

“If you vote for a governor and skip the amendment for whatever reason, you have effectively voted no on Amendment 1,” Fowler said.

In addition, how the amendment must pass can be confusing, leaders agree.

In order for Amendment 1 to pass, it will need 50 percent of the votes in the governor’s race cast plus one. For example, if one million people vote for a candidate for governor on Nov. 4, Amendment 1 must receive 500,001 votes, Simons said.
Fowler offered other examples
.

And MTSU political science professor Mark Byrnes tells the Murfreesboro Daily News:

“I think (Amendment 1 is) likely the hottest issue on the ballot this fall,” said Byrnes, a 23-year professor who is also the dean of the Middle Tennessee State University College of Liberal Arts. “You have a governor’s raced that’s a yawner and an uncompetitive U.S. Senate race.”

Given that an amendment only passes if the vote total equals at least 50 percent plus one of all votes tallied in the governor’s race, those who oppose Amendment No. 1 must vote in the gubernatorial race to increase chances of it failing, Byrnes added.

Those who want it see it pass have a strategic incentive to vote yes on No. 1 while choosing not to cast a ballot in the governor’s race to decrease the total votes required for amendment passage, Byrnes said.