Politics wasn’t a dirty word in Joyce and Charlie Burchett’s household. They debated it over the kitchen table, worked it in campaigns, and, as families forged in the fires of World War II were wont to do, saw it as a way to help the Average Joe.
They passed that philosophy on to their children, and the belief in the power of politics to lift people’s lives is probably part of Tim Burchett’s DNA.
Exactly nobody among the throng of people at the Vol Market No. 3 was surprised this morning when he unveiled the worst-kept secret in Knox County – the launch of his campaign for the Second District Congressional seat – and I do not use the word “throng” advisedly. Hundreds packed that parking lot – candidates and wannabes, past and present officeholders, rich and poor and everybody in between.
Accuracy requires saying that Burchett’s running for the GOP nomination, but, no offense to my friends in the Democratic Party, this race will be decided in the Republican primary.
I won’t be writing much about this race because Tim Burchett is a friend. It’s been that way since 1989 when state Senate candidate Bud Gilbert (a Republican) assigned Tim and his friend Chris Holzen the task of schmoozing the notoriously liberal reporter at the Knoxville Journal who’d be covering that race.
That would be me. And it worked. Chris, Tim and I became an unlikely threesome after the campaign was over, and over the years, as the skinny, joke-cracking kid became a state representative and then a state senator, we understood that although he was looking at politics from the right while I was coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, there was a place in the middle where we could find common ground.
It always involved helping someone – getting justice for a sexually abused child, helping a down-and-out veteran with mental health issues, finding jobs and places to live for homeless families. We got to know each other’s families and shared good times and bad.
I grinned like a proud mama when Tim blasted the TVA board’s reluctance to take responsibility for the coal ash disaster at Swan Pond (he called them a bunch of Bozos) And when senior party officeholders demanded he apologize, he said OK, and apologized to Bozo the Clown.
The crowd at Vol Market No. 3 was big and diverse. I saw union people and minorities and Democrats, and I believe that Tim Burchett, right-wing conservative though he is, will listen to their concerns and won’t ever dismiss them as kooks and crazies. That’s just not how he was raised, dadgummit.