“We’re focused on the House. We’re making tough strategic decisions. That angers some people. But at the end of the day, we have to find this path to victory, and we see it,” Forrester says with the fervor of the evangelist.
Democrats need to gain only two seats to retake the House—that is, if all their own members win reelection, which probably isn’t going to happen. Among the vulnerable Democrats named by Forrester: Ty Cobb of Columbia, Judy Barker of Union City, Greeneville’s Eddie Yokley, Winchester’s George Fraley, Lebanon’s Stratton Bone, Camden’s Butch Borchert, and Kent Coleman of Murfreesboro.
Democrats are especially worried about holding the Hermitage seat of the retiring blabbermouth Ben West. Metro Councilman Jim Gotto is making a strong, well-funded bid to take that seat for the GOP.
If Republicans maintain power, of course, they will gerrymander the once-proud party of Andy Jackson out of existence, and we won’t have to worry about them anymore.
Highest on the Democrats’ hit list are six first-time incumbent Republicans who distinguished themselves as goofballs in the 106th General Assembly. Here they are:
Josh Evans—This baby-faced True Believer of the GOP’s wacky right wing is vulnerable, according to the Democrats, because of a “messy, muddy” divorce, as Forrester describes it. In this divorce, which befell the representative from Greenbrier since the ’08 election, Evans was indeed accused of unspecified "inappropriate marital conduct," and his wife Brittany took him to the cleaners. About the only thing he kept was a cat named Reagan and the king-size Tempur-Pedic mattress. Democrats are running the mighty Billy Paul Carneal, mayor of Springfield. Anybody named Billy Paul is definitely a potential juggernaut. “This guy is just as stout as you can get,” Forrester says.
Terri Lynn Weaver—The gospel-singing Weaver voted against issuing state bonds to fix 100 unsafe bridges in the state, including one notorious span in this traditionally Democratic district. “Tennessee cannot act like Washington and just print more money,” she said. That might fly at a tea party rally but it’s not going over really well on Smithville’s main street. “She’s not the brightest bulb in the box,” Forrester says of Weaver. Democrats are getting behind Jamie Winkler, the son of Alberta Winkler. Never heard of her? Well, she’s a really old friend and associate of Al Gore’s—so old, in fact, that she was sitting at the kitchen table with him when he first decided to run for public office way back in 1976. Gore apparently will do anything for Alberta Winkler, including campaigning for her son for state representative. “She’s that close to him,” Forrester assures us. “Al will weigh in.”
Joe Carr—Best known as the legislature’s Per Diem King, Carr raked in more than $27,000 from the taxpayers in daily allowance and mileage payments in his first year in office. What’s worse, he doesn’t even need motel money—the main expense the per diem is supposed to pay. He lives only 30 minutes away in Lascassas. Carr’s lame excuse? Gee, he didn’t know he was getting all that money, even though he submitted forms asking for it and then cashed all the checks. The Democratic challenger? David LaRoche, a young lawyer. The best thing about him? His daddy’s rich.
Curtis Halford—Democrats think they have just the candidate to take this District 79 seat: an old-time pol named Joe Shepard now serving as Gibson County mayor. Republicans are so worried they tried to scare Shepard out of the race. The state party sent Forrester a letter pointing to “shocking and egregious” press clippings from Shepard’s time as sheriff. The worst of it? One of his subordinates was caught giving booze to jail inmates. Democrats scoff: “They are scared,” says party flack Keith Talley.
Chad Faulkner—A Knox County deputy sheriff, Faulkner made his biggest splash in Nashville by trying to make it easier for law officers to retaliate against citizens who file complaints against them. Under his bill, which failed thankfully, the names and addresses of all complainants would have been shown immediately, along with their complaints, to the law officers who are accused of wrongdoing. Democrats have high hopes for their candidate, somebody named Keith Clotfelter, a really great salesman of manufactured homes.
Tony Shipley—Clearly the top kook of the Class of ’08, Shipley kicked off his legislative career by expressing fears that God might snatch up Tennessee and plop us into the ocean for being too lenient toward gay people. That earned Shipley a nickname in the legislature’s press room: Captain Apocalypse. Democrats hope Nathan Vaughn can retake this Kingsport seat he lost in the last election by only 320 votes. Republicans defeated Vaughn, who is black, by playing the race card with their infamous blackbird flier.