Charlie Brown, Tennessee Gubernatorial Candidate: 'Put His Butt In That Electric Chair'
Realizing they had no chance of winning the election anyway, Democrats in Tennessee just nominated a 72-year-old political novice named Charlie Brown to run against Republican Governor Bill Haslam in November. Brown has never held elected office, did no campaigning in the run-up to Thursday’s primary, and misspelled his own name on his Facebook page. Nevertheless, he won the nomination in a landslide, and shortly after doing so, promptly called for the execution of the state’s Republican governor. And not just any sort of execution.
"I'd still like to put his butt in that electric chair and turn it on about half throttle and let him smell a little bit," Brown told Mother Jones after his win. "You can print that if you want to."
How did Brown win? The leading theory now is that it was due to his name being first on the ballot, which seems likely enough. Another explanation might be that the Tennessee Democratic Party is somehow incapable of nominating halfway professional candidates to major tickets. In 2012, the Democratic Senate nomination in the state went to Mark Clayton, a conspiracy theorist who warned of FEMA prison camps and an Arnold Schwarzenegger-led takeover of the U.S. government. Needless to say, Clayton didn’t win, and was successfully banned from running in 2014 by state Democrats.
While Brown seems more, umm, grounded than Clayton, he’s still not your average politician. Explaining that God told him to run for public office when he was waiting to meet someone by the side of the interstate, Brown wrote, in an error-filled letter to local newspapers, that the main goal of his candidacy is “to put the Bible back in school.” The other two planks of his campaign are raising the speed limit to 80 mils per hour (“because everyone does anyway”) and importing more deer into the state, so they can be hunted.
After spending time with Brown, Slate’s Caleb Hanning suggests that there’s more to him than meets the eye:
From a distance, Brown would seem like an easy man to parody. He’s not. During our hourlong conversation, he brought up a number of issues that made him sound more like a concerned citizen than a Southern stereotype. Brown said he had been in a union all his life, and was dismayed at the way his home state treated organized labor, including groups representing teachers and prison guards. He thought that the clear-cutting undertaken by the state’s wildlife resources agency was putting that same wildlife in danger. And he brought up a number of potential scandals that he saw as disqualifying for Bill Haslam, including what he saw as a suspiciously lucrative land deal for a friend of the governor’s.
Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons between Brown and Alvin Greene, the hapless Democratic nominee in South Carolina’s 2010 Senate race. Greene, another political novice who didn’t do any campaigning, managed to defeat a local judge for the nomination. Many theorized that this was either because his name was first on the ballot or, in a slightly more far-fetched explanation, because voters confused him for soul singer Al Green. Either way, he was a less-than-ideal candidate, and lost in a landslide.
Brown insists that now, having received the nomination, he’s “gonna campaign big time.”