Park Overall Looks Back On Run
For U.S. Senate
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Years spent in Hollywood and famous roles in more than one popular television series could easily be imagined as the adventure of a lifetime.
Former actress Park Overall, however, said that she has now been a part of a process that she believes was even greater -- running for a political office.
"It was a wonderful experience!" she said of her campaign for U.S. Senate. "It was my greatest adventure by far."
Overall, a Greene County native and resident, placed third among the seven candidates on the Democratic Party primary ticket for Senate in August, receiving a total of 24,205 votes statewide.
She was, however, the preferred candidate of Tennessee Democratic Party officials, who persistently recruited her to become a candidate, and eventually persuaded her to run.
THE FIRST LESSON
When she was told by Democratic Party leaders that there was no one else to run on the Democratic side against U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the popular and well financed Republican incumbent, she said she believed that there was -- literally -- no one else running as a Democrat.
It wasn't until she was officially into her campaign that she came to realize that the words "no one else" from the party leaders meant "no one else that we want."
"It was silly. Why tell me that when it wasn't so?" she questioned on Thursday in an interview with The Greeneville Sun.
"Then it turned out, well, this one's crazy, that one's this, that one's really a Republican. Well, tell me that! Just don't tell me something that wasn't so."
Besides the fact that Overall was not expecting to be running against fellow Democrats in the primary, she said she was caught off guard by the amount of time and energy the campaign consumed.
And she was also surprised by the amount of studying necessary in order to become knowledgeable on all the potential campaign issues.
"It is very, very time-consuming and energy-consuming, and I was not quite prepared for that," she said.
"Next time, if I do it again -- and I'm not saying I will -- but if I were to, I'd put my health issues way out front."
"I might do it again, but I'll try to stick closer to East Tennessee. I won't ever, I don't think, go after such a big, big seat," she later said.
"What I studied and had to do just to campaign was overwhelming. The only thing that my brain could absorb was what's important to me."
Overall spoke passionately in the interview about how she would have advocated for those key issues had she made it into the Senate.
Chief among her concerns, she said, are the environment and women's rights. She noted, for example, her strong support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and her strong opposition to the "Blunt Amendment."
According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to state that "the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination re-starts with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action" instead of starting on the date of the first discriminatory paycheck.
The Blunt amendment, introduced by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., failed in the U.S. Senate on a largely party-line vote in May 2012 with almost all Republicans voting in favor and almost all Democrats opposed.
The legislation would have allowed employers to opt out of providing in their company insurance plans any health care service required by Obamacare to which the employer has a moral objection.
For instance, an employer with moral objections to contraception would not have had to provide that service in the employer's company insurance plan.
"As if anyone in Hollywood who gave me a paycheck ever cared about my ... birth control," Overall said, laughing and noting that conservatives tried to attach the amendment to a transportation bill to get it passed.
"I would have loved," she said, "to have gone around the halls of the Senate and said, 'Hey, excuse me. Can you explain to me why we're attaching my womb to a transportation bill? Can we just talk about that for a minute?'"
Her passionate stance on these issues and others also kept her from offering her support to Mark Clayton, the controversial Democratic Party primary winner in the Senate race.
The Democratic Party formally disavowed Clayton because he had been a volunteer with Falls Church, Va.-based Public Advocate of the United States, which describes itself as a conservative advocacy group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a politically liberal nonprofit organization, has termed the organization a "hate group" because of its positions on issues related to homosexuality.
Public Advocate states on its Internet website that it supports such policy positions as "a federal traditional marriage (man-woman) amendment to the Constitution," "school prayer and the freedom of religious expression in public places," and "pro-life legislation."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., describes itself on its Internet website as "a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society."
"Mark Clayton called me and is a very sweet young man, but his views on anything are not even close to mine," she said.
"I'm a Progressive, and he's worried about Christian schools. It's just not my issue; I'm an environmentalist.
"I would not endorse him."
Democratic Party officials blamed Clayton's primary victory on the fact that, in a primary race with several little-known candidates listed in alphabetical order, Clayton's name was at the top of the primary ballot.
Overall added to that explanation of his victory her own late start in campaigning coupled with her personal health issues -- factors which, together, kept her from getting west of Nashville, she said.
RAN WELL IN REGION
In Northeast Tennessee where she is widely known, however, Overall made a strong showing in the primary race, easily carrying Greene County and receiving the most Democratic Primary votes in Hamblen, Hawkins, Knox, Sevier, Unicoi and Washington counties as well.
Her struggles in the race have not shaken her, she assured, and have only made her wiser.
"It didn't sour me on being a Democrat ...," she emphasized. "I will always vote [on the Democratic Party side]."
Her newly-acquired wisdom on running for public office included the following tidbits:
* "Never trust anybody who says they're going to do something for you."
* "Never use your own money -- which, I'm happy to say, I didn't."
* "Be prepared to travel."
* "Always get a campaign manager."
The best part of the opportunity to run for office? she was asked. Meeting people, she replied.
"I enjoyed meeting people more than anything," she said. "I love it when a country man shakes my hand and leaves a $100 bill in it!"
She said she even learned that she's such a good speaker that she can bring people to their feet -- and memorable enough that many have told her they wrote in her name on the General Election ballot on Nov. 6!