BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Local and area Democratic candidates told local Democrats on Tuesday night that the party must unite around a message and work together to get that message out, in order to be successful in the coming elections.
That message, candidates said, needs to be one of finally getting the work done in a bipartisan manner, both in the Tennessee General Assembly and in Congress.
The Greene County Democratic Party and the Greene County Democratic Women's Club heard this reasoning from Democratic candidates for state and federal seats on Tuesday.
Alan Woodruff, a candidate for Tennessee's 1st U.S. Congressional District, is running for U.S. Representative against incumbent Rep. Phil Roe, a Republican, of Johnson City.
Woodruff emphasized that Congress needs to work together as Americans first, placing this factor before their personal distinctions of Republican or Democrat.
"Our priority has got to be what is right for our country," Woodruff said.
'NEED NEW IDEAS'
The candidate promised to be that person who is willing to share ideas, consider the merit of new ideas, and work with others to find solutions.
Both Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing, he said -- "Washington is royally screwed up."
He also expressed his frustration that the parties have not been willing, he said, to at least pass laws on the items on which they do agree.
"We have got to have somebody go to Washington who is willing to show some kind of leadership," he said.
Woodruff noted his own varied background as a tax lawyer, as a consultant in economics and government policy, and as a securities broker.
"I have done things that relate to what we have as problems today," he said.
As a Democrat, the candidate said, he is more willing to look at new solutions to these problems than the Republicans, who he said focus their attention on "cut, cut, cut."
TEA PARTY, HEALTH CARE
During a followup discussion with the audience, Woodruff also touched on two popular topics today -- the Tea Party and the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.
He said he is actually "proud of the Tea Party movement" -- not because he agrees with them on the issues, but because they have motivated people to get involved in the electoral process.
As for the Affordable Care Act, Woodruff said that President Barack Obama "didn't do a good job selling the health care reform act."
When noting various aspects of the law that he said are good and beneficial, people in conversation will agree, he said, but then turn right around and say that they hate the law.
He again called for a strong Democratic message.
Former 11th District State Rep. Eddie Yokley, who is now running for state Representative in the 5th District following this year's redistricting, shared a similar message, calling for a strong Democratic unity and message accompanied by a willingness to work with people on both sides of the aisle.
"I think being a good state [representative] hopefully is what I'm all about," Yokley said. "I call it 'life experiences,' is what makes a good Representative."
He described growing up on a farm with a family that was not wealthy, attending a small country church, and being delighted when he moved into a new job paying $3.25 per hour.
His time spent serving in the U.S. armed forces, his B.S. degree in agriculture, and his time in real estate all built up to his role for 12 years as Greene County's Assessor of Property, he said.
"I went in with the objective: I want to be the best I can be and be the best that you can have," he said. "I try to do that for anything I've ever run for."
With his various life experiences, he said he is familiar with the local culture and able to relate to the people who live here.
"Isn't relating with you and your problems what it's all about?" he asked.
Yokley said he will be formally kicking off his campaign soon, but has "tried to stay out of the primary" since he is the only Democratic candidate against four Republicans.
As soon as the primary passes on Aug. 2, however, Yokley said he is ready and excited to get started and begin talking about the issues.
"It's easy to say I want to cut this or I want to cut that and I want to do this for the people," he said.
"There's a little bit of hypocrisy going on because you can't develop everything that costs money and take everything else away and deliver it to the people."
It will take balance and participation in the process to restore America, he said.
Yokley added that he feels well prepared to return as state Representative
His defeat in 2010 by state Rep. Jeremy Faision, R-11th, of Cosby, gave him two years of farming, he said, and time to really reflect on what is going on in the state's government.
"I've always worked with people to work together," he said. "People had confidence in me on both sides of the aisle."
The former Representative said he looks forward to returning to doing so again.
FIRST FEMALE REPRESENTATIVE
Marjorie Ramsey, a candidate for 11th district State Representative who is running against Faison, also spoke briefly, highlighting her life experiences, from her 33 years at Enka to her time as a union representative.
"I do have leadership ability," she said. "I've got a whole life of life graduations."
She said that she would like to be the first "lady Representative" from Greene, Cocke and Jefferson Counties.
If allowed to serve, she said her focus would be on repealing the voter ID law and in restoring teacher bargaining rights.
"It's the silliest state Representatives that we have had in Nashville from what they have passed," she said.
The party also heard from Nancy Fischman, of Washington County, who is running for the 7th District seat in the Tennessee House.