by Jeff Woods
on Fri, Jun 1, 2007 at 12:38 PM
First, it was The Tennessean that refused to write a profile of Kenneth Eaton, the plain-talking used car salesman running for mayor. Now, he's been snubbed by the organizers of the first televised candidate forum.
West Nashville neighborhood associations, which are hosting the event next week, decided Eaton couldn't participate because his campaign hasn't raised enough money.
"We did not invite Eaton," says Irwin Venick, one of the forum's organizers. "We decided to invite those candidates who had raised at least $100,000 prior to March 31, 2007, which, in our view, was an indication of the ability of a candidate to mount a viable campaign for mayor."
Eaton is outraged. "It's a little ridiculous," he says. "It's just unreal that they single out one candidate just because he doesn't have the money that they think he should have in the bank."
Up to this point in the campaign, voters have been forced to actually get up out of their Barcaloungers and go to one of the almost nightly community forums to hear the candidates talk. A few thousand people at most have done it. The candidates could have reached more voters by holding campaign signs at busy intersections for a few hours.
That begins to change with the first televised forum. It will happen Thursday night at Montgomery Bell Academy. It will be broadcast on WTVF's NewsChannel5+, which is cable channel 50, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 8, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9. There are at least two more debates on TV in July.
We predict the televised forums will depress voter turnout as the general populace hears the mayoral hopefuls speak for the first time. On the brighter side, they will probably produce a few laughs. The candidates have a tendency to say really funny things. Here are two of the latest gems:
"I've been color blind all my life." —Bob Clement, trying to appeal to the mostly black audience at the Bordeux forum.
"The greasy wheel sometimes gets the noise." —Buck Dozier, getting confused.
And from early in the campaign, a few golden oldies:
"I'm not a Messiah. I'm not coming as a Messiah." —Dozier, apparently attempting to tamp down expectations for a Dozier administration.
"Cleanliness counts!" —Clement, advising West Nashvillians on how they can improve their economy.
"Let's turn lemons into lemonade!" —the unabashed Clement again, this time on what West Nashvillians should do about job losses.
"Antioch was a mistake." —Howard Gentry, endearing himself to residents at an Antioch forum in response to a question about out-of-control development.
Too bad they won't let Eaton on the stage next week at MBA. Although basically uninformed on the issues, he's probably the funniest of the bunch of candidates and has been the only one willing to call out any of his rivals for saying stupid things.
"Bottom line is I'm kicking ass in the forums but the media are just not recognizing that I'm a candidate," he says. "It's really baffling to me. I haven't raised $100,000. I haven't really tried to. It's tough to give money away. The people I know are hardworking people and they live from paycheck to paycheck."
Here's Eaton kicking Gentry's ass at the Antioch forum: