Apr 27 2008

More than a hundred Blount Co. Democrats gathered at the Airport Hilton last night for the second annual Roosevelt Day Dinner, presented by the Blount County Democratic Women's Club and the Blount County Democratic Party.

Thanks to Events Chair Gerrae Messer for putting on a great program, and to Party Vice-Chair Tony Webb, our gracious host and master of ceremonies.

Read all about it after the jump...

More than a hundred Democrats gathered for the dinner

Entertainment provided by the Maryville High Strings

Master of Ceremonies Tony Webb welcomes everyone

The evening started off with a great speech by Blount County Commissioner Wendy Pitts Reeves on the enduring achievements of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Wendy also emphasized Eleanor Roosevelt's fight for equal rights, equal justice, and equal dignity, something all of us would like to see more of right here at home in the present day.

After dinner, we heard from Paul Monger who is with the Bob Tuke campaign for U.S. Senate. Paul (who was Mike Padgett's campaign manager in past local elections) praised Bob Tuke's service as a Marine and his work for the party across the state. He emphasized that we have two good Democratic candidates running in the primary, and that Democrats will unite behind whoever wins.

Mark Padgett

Blount County Commissioner Dr. Bob Proffit then introduced Mark Padgett, the son of Mike Padgett who is also running for U.S. Senate against Lamar Alexander.

Mark said that folks ask why his dad is running. His answer is that "he's not done yet." He's not done fixing the problems Tennesseans face every day, and there's more work to do cleaning up the mess created by the current Republican administration and its failed policies.

When people ask how Democrats like his dad win in a Republican stronghold such as East Tennessee, Mark said you have to be a listener, an innovator, and a problem solver.

He went on to say that Mike Padgett believes small business is the fabric of our economy, and that he is committed to helping small businesses grow our economy and create jobs. He is also for a balanced budget and a tax system that doesn't favor the wealthy, for reducing our dependence on foreign oil by 75%, and for maintaining a strong national defense including strong support for our returning veterans.

State Rep. John Litz

Blount County Commissioner David Ballard then introduced State Rep. John Litz from Morristown, Assistant House Majority Leader.

Rep. Litz said he was going to do something a little different. He walked to the back of the room to speak. He said this is an example of "thinking outside the box" to put the people in back in the front.

On the presidential primary, he said people asked him if he would vote for a woman. He noted that his mother is a woman, and his wife is a woman, and that he's pretty sure his mother-in-law is a woman, so why wouldn't he? He said someone asked him if he would vote for a Muslim. He said Obama is not a Muslim, that's GOP nonsense. Someone else asked him if he would vote for a black man. He said yes he would, because he can't afford diesel for his tractor at his farm, much less four more years of conservative GOP policies.

Rep. Litz said that the key to victory for Democrats in November is to harness the power of the people Obama has brought into the process, and to harness the power of the people Clinton has energized. He said the message is that Democrats solve problems by taking the lead and bringing new ideas.

Rep. Litz acknowledged the leadership of Gov. Bredesen through some tough times for Tennessee, and also for helping Democrats get elected across the state. He also warned that Bill Frist will be running an aggressive campaign for governor, and is already campaigning against targeted Democrats in hopes of getting more Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly ahead of his run for governor.

He also said that there has been talk of Lamar Alexander as McCain's running mate. While that might be good for Tennessee Democrats and the Senate race, he doesn't think the national Republican Party will allow it to happen.

Joe Gallagher

Next up, Joe Gallagher introduced Judge Mike Meares, our keynote speaker. Joe first took the opportunity to talk about some of the recent controversies in Blount County. He noted that Mayor Jerry Cunningham said he was "agitated" that citizens are asking questions about the county's finances. Joe said that Cunningham should be agitated, because the chickens are coming home to roost. He said 2008 is a year of change for Blount County, and that Cunningham and the local Republican machine should get used to it. Joe called for an independent panel to conduct a top to bottom audit of county finances.

Joe also talked about the progress Democrats are making in Blount County. He said that Judge Meares would be elected in August, but there was a lot of work to be done between now and then. He noted that 9000 Democrats voted in February, and we need to call every one of them. If we can get them to the polls in August, Judge Meares will win.

Joe said he knew he was preaching to the choir, but that the choir has to start singing. Democrats need to get busy sending letters, putting out signs, and making calls. He said we would need volunteers to drive people to the polls and to work as poll watchers. He also said we need observers in nursing homes to make sure Republican operatives aren't confusing some of the more vulnerable seniors into voting for who they are told to vote for instead of who they want to vote for.

Judge Mike Meares

Judge Mike Meares, candidate for Circuit Court Judge, then gave a rousing speech.

Speaking of his experience, he noted that he has tried every kind of case imaginable, as a public defender, a private attorney, and now as the sitting judge.

He said that the Constitution provides for a system of checks and balances, including an independent judiciary, and that nowhere is more balance needed right now than in local government.

Judge Meares said that one of the things he has learned from talking to people during his campaign is that Democrats are at the core of a new majority who believe government has to change.

He said that in the local political climate there are Democrats who don't believe we can win, but that we must. He reminded us that Eleanor Roosevelt once said "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Judge Meares also talked about the climate of fear, in which people are afraid to speak out or even admit they are Democrats. He said he doesn't get it, and that it is not acceptable. He told the audience that people cannot be afraid to ask questions of your government, and that every elected official should be responsive to the citizens and their questions.

He then asked three questions:

1. Do you want a system where judges are hand picked by the local Republican clique?

2. Do you want a judge who is independent of lawyer's control?

3. Do you want a judge who is strict, fair, and efficient?

He thanked the audience for their response to his questions, and said "that judge is standing before you right now."

He then talked about his campaign, and encouraged people to put signs in their yards and ask their neighbors to put signs in their yards. He wanted 100 people there to get ten people to make ten calls to get the 10,000 votes needed to win. He noted that there are 15,000 Democrats in Blount County, and we only need 10,000 because there are also at least 2,000 Republicans voters who want balanced government.

He concluded by asking if anyone had looked at his opponent's website. It says that the "future depends on unseating Judge Meares," and Judge Meares wonders why that is so important to the "elite clique."

Good question.

Gerrae Messer

After a standing ovation for Judge Meares, Brandon Cook presented the Blount County Democrat of the Year award to Gerrae Messer.

Ernie Tallent

Brandon also presented a special Award of Appreciation to Ernie Tallent, who said he is 87 years old and that he reckons he's been a Democrat for about 87 years.

Also in attendance were representatives from the Sevier County Democrats, Hamblen County Democrats, and Knox County Democrats.

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