Democratic party headquarters opens in downtown Johnson City


star staff


  JOHNSON CITY -- A crowd of more than one hundred turned out Tuesday night in downtown Johnson City to show their support for the Democratic Party at the grand opening of the John Kerry and John Edwards Campaign Office of Washington County.
  The Grand Opening celebration began with a meet and greet at 6:30 p.m. giving area Democrats a chance to get to know one another and mingle with Democratic candidates who are running for local offices.
  At 7 p.m., five candidates for local offices addressed the group with reasons to vote for them as well as Democratic candidates in the primary elections on Thursday and the national elections in November.
  "If we're going to win this year, we Democrats are going to have to stay united," said Mary Hylton, who is running for the Assessor of Property office in Washington County. "We can win this if we try."
  Tony DeLucia, a Democratic candidate who is running for the 7th State House District, agreed with her sentiments. "We're a party that is ready to do great things," he told the crowd. "I believe that it's going to take major strides in the long run to accomplish what needs to be done in East Tennessee."
  Another candidate for a seat in the Tennessee State House, Linda Brittenham, who is running for the seat for the 1st District, expressed her displeasure with current events in Nashville. "Ladies and gentlemen, there is a lot going on in Nashville, but none of it is coming back to East Tennessee," Brittenham said as the crowd applauded.
  Two of the three candidates who are vying for the Democratic nomination to go head-to-head against the Republican nominee for Tennessee's 1st Congressional District were also in attendance and spoke to the crowd.
  William "Billy" Earp told those in attendance that if they wanted to see a Democrat get elected to Congress out of the 1st District, they would need to help in getting cross-over votes from moderates and Republicans. Earp, who was a pastor for 17 years, told the crowd that many of the political hot-button issues would have to be addressed in a way to encourage people to vote for a Democratic candidate.
  To demonstrate his point, Earp spoke about the subject of Right to Choose vs. Right to Life. "As a pastor I have pastored people who have ranted and raved about how we ought to outlaw abortion. But I can also point to passages in the Bible that show we ought to be more compassionate and less judgmental," Earp said. "What would Jesus do? He wouldn't stand on a street corner and scream 'murderer' at a woman walking in a clinic; I can tell you that right now."
  Graham Leonard, another Democratic candidate seeking nomination as the party's point man for the 1st Congressional District seat, also spoke about national issues. Leonard, who earned a doctorate degree in education from Harvard University, discussed the recent report by the Sept. 11 commission regarding ways which the nation could be more prepared to fight terrorism.
  "Instead of spending all these millions and billions of dollars building this wall around the country, all of that money could be spent more wisely if we just used our brains and something spelled s-p-i-e-s and went over there and figured out who these people are and where they are," he said.
  Leonard also encouraged those in attendance not only to vote for presidential candidate John Kerry and his running mate John Edwards, but also to support all Democratic party candidates. "It's not going to be enough to get Kerry in the White House with Edwards by his side; we also have to get a Democratic congress," he said.
  All of the talk at the meeting was not of a serious nature. Bobby Funk, a volunteer for the Democratic Party Headquarters, joked with the crowd about the number of Democrats versus the number of Republicans in Northeast Tennessee. "I was joking the other day that Democrats in Northeast Tennessee are like the al-Qaida; we work in these little groups and we don't really know who the other groups are," he said as both he and the crowd laughed. "But, it is time for us all to come out of hiding and work together."
  The Kerry/Edwards Campaign Headquarters of Washington County is located at 121 1/2 Spring Street in Johnson City. Those looking for more information on Kerry/Edwards or other democratic campaigns, or individuals wishing to volunteer can contact the headquarters at (423) 926-1148.