Jul 21 2007

TNDP Chair Gray Sasser

It was a lovely afternoon for a picnic in Blount County, and there was a pretty good turnout for a great event. We had hot dogs and fixings, an incredible array of desserts, and a fun auction to raise money for the Blount County Democratic Party.

Click "read more" below for more photos and the rest of the story...

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Gray Sasser and TNDP East Tennessee Political Director Janet Meek spoke. County Commissioners Wendy Pitts Reeves and David Ballard also spoke, and we met the new Blount County Democratic Party chair Dave Finch. We also got to meet Blount County Circuit Court Judge Michael Meares, a super nice guy who was recently appointed by Gov. Bredesen to replace Judge Kelly Thomas who was promoted to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Don Daugherty was there, too. This was the first Blount Dem event we've attended where the Knox Co. Democratic Party put in an appearance. This is a good thing for state and national elections. Despite East Tennessee's reputation as being solid Republican territory, the city of Knoxville is a fairly reliable Democratic pocket. You might recall that the City of Knoxville went for Harold Ford Jr. over Bob Corker (as did Corker's home town of Chattanooga, as Gray Sasser reminded us). The Democratic Party in Blount County is growing, thanks in part to former County Mayor candidate Joe Gallagher who ran the Blount County John Kerry campaign in 2004, and previous chair Brandon Cook after that. But we can use all the help we can get from our "big brother" over in Knox County, and working together will help move our platform forward in East Tennessee.

Gray Sasser gave a great talk about the importance of the 2008 elections. He evoked the spirit of RFK, quoting his last campaign speech in 1968 when RFK said "I think we can end the divisions within the United States. What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis. And that what has been going on with the United States over the period of that last three years, the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions- whether it's between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or in the war in Vietnam - that we can work together. We are a great country, and unselfish country and a compassionate country."

How true are those word today, nearly 40 years later? Gray Sasser emphasized the three points RFK made in that speech, that we are a "great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country", and that is what we need to get back to. Mr. Sasser also said that we are going to retire the "red plaid shirt" in 2008 (mentioning Mike McWherter's possible bid for the Senate), and that the last thing we will allow is a "red pickup truck parked out back of the White House" (referring, of course, to Fred Thompson.)

Mr. Sasser also made an excellent point about local politics. He said that when the same small group of people meet every week or month or so, it's a club, not a party. He said everybody likes to be in a club, but we have to work to make it a party. He said that local Democratic organizations need to get out and get more people involved. As an example, he challenged Blount County Democrats to get twice as many people out to the next summer picnic, which will occur just before the 2008 elections. He made another great point when he said that everyone there today knew two or three people they could invite and get to come out and get involved.

Blount County Commissioners Wendy Pitts Reeves and David Ballard spoke about shaking up local Blount County politics, something that's long overdue. Wendy noted that David had been on the Budget Committee, but he started asking questions and bringing things to light and now he's no longer on the committee. Such is the good old boy system of Blount County politics (and Knox County and pretty much every other county in East Tennessee), but Wendy made the point that you have to get involved and make some noise if you want to change it.

We talked with Wendy about blogging and the internet (as far as we know, she's the only local Blount County official with a blog), and the power of the internet as a political tool. We also talked with Blount Co. Dem Chair Dave Finch about this, and he noted that coming from a Silicon Valley business background he was a little surprised at the lack of netroots activity in the area. He also noted that the Blount County Democratic Party has good support from seniors and a few college age kids, but the middle generations seem to be missing in action. He's working on ideas to change all of that.

It was a great event and we met some great folks (with apologies to those whose names I don't remember and haven't mentioned), and a special thanks to Gerrae Messer (hope I got that right) who helped organize the event and brought lots of great stuff for the auction.

Brandon Cook (right),former Blount Co. Dem Chair (with apologies to the other folks I don't know).

There was lots of great food, which Blount Dem Vice Chair Tony Webb is caught sampling here.

Auction items...

Such as this awesome gourd art vase by Mello (the Mrs. got outbid on it at the last minute, much to my disappointment.)

Here's Brandon the auctioneer with the first auction item. He did a pretty great job. These two jars of green beens sold for $30. Seriously. (Knox Dem Chair Don Daugherty was the lucky bidder.)

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Gray Sasser

East Tennessee Political Director Janet Meek. Expect to hear a lot more from this high-energy Democrat over the next few months.

Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Don Daugherty (on the left, sorry I didn't get her name).

Blount County Circuit Court Judge Michael Meares

(Apologies to Wendy Pitts Reeves and David Ballard for not getting good photos of them. Next time, hopefully...)

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