Bill's Blog


Posted on August 17th, 2018

One of my favorite politicians is Howard “Cotton” Ivy.  He is an old “yeller dawg” Democrat from Decatur County, Tennessee who served in the legislature for a number of years, and was Tennessee’s Commissioner of Agriculture under Governor Ned Ray McWherter. 

Several years ago Cotton joined former Tennessee State Senator Roy Herron in writing a delightfully-titled book, Tennessee Political Humor:  Some of These Jokes You Voted For. 

My favorite line in the book concerns how expensive political campaigns have become. Cotton wryly observes, “These days in politics it takes a million dollars just to get beat!” 

Well, Cotton may want to update his estimate of how much one must lose in order to lose. Based on spending in this year’s Tennessee Governor’s race, it takes a lot more than a million dollars to get beat. It takes as much as $20 million dollars! 

In the recent Republican primary for Governor, Knoxville bidnessman (as we say in Tennessee) Randy Boyd spent over $20 million dollars of his own money. Congresswoman Diane Black spent over $12 million dollars, and Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell spent $3 million dollars. 

And they all lost! 

The spending tab in the Tennessee Governor’s race has now topped $50 million dollars, and the race ain’t over yet. It won’t be settled ‘til November, some three months and several million dollars down the road. 

The “winner” of the Governor’s race will be paid an annual salary of $155,000. 

I’m no Jethro Bodine when it comes to cipherin’, but I can’t understand why a smart bidnessman or bidnesswoman would spend $20 million dollars of his or her own money to get a job that pays $155,000 a year. I would have to take off my shoes and socks to get the exact calculation, but if you spent $20 million dollars to get a job that pays around $150,000, wouldn’t your net loss be $19,850,000? 

Sounds like a pretty bad investment to me. 

The truth is that only billionaires can run for statewide office these days.  If you are a mere multi-millionaire like, say, Jed Clampett, you couldn’t afford to run for Governor of Tennessee. You would need to spend every penny of the money Mr. Drysdale had invested for you through the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills.

I’m not sure of the net worth of Thurston B. Howell, III, but if its only a few million, he probably couldn’t run for Governor of Tennessee even if he somehow was able to escape from Gilligan’s Island. 

At these prices, no one can really afford to throw his or her hat in the ring, even if it is a nice Stetson cowboy model. 

In 1884, the American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman declined running for the presidency saying, “If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.” 

His comments became known in American political parlance as a “Sherman statement.” 

Well, I think it’s time to update the Sherman statement as follows: “If nominated, I will not run.  If elected, I will not serve, because I simply cannot afford public office, whether I win or lose!”



Peggy McClure: How true!! The cost of advertising has certainly gone up over the years, but I'm an advocate of campaign spending for all races. It's long overdue for our nation to equalize the playing field and to allow the candidates and their campaign staff focus their time on the issues and not on the obnoxious amount of fundraising.

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