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Former Knox County Clerk seeks Alexander’s senate seat

What is Lamar putting on your dinner table?

Such is the question a Knox Countian with extensive local government experience is asking Tennessee voters in a bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in November.

Seeking the Democratic nomination in August among an eight-person field, Mike Padgett’s 22 years experience in Knox County government, 20 as County Clerk, was highlighted among other qualities last week by a strong campaign supporter.

Mark Padgett, one of Mike’s three children, stumped for his father Tuesday, April 15, speaking to Fifth District Democratic Club members at Cedar Bluff library.

“I want to talk to people about dinner table conversations. If Lamar’s put something on your dinner table, send him back if you’re satisfied with the way things are going,” Mark said during his approximately 25-minute speech and question-and-answer session. “If you’ve never been touched by legislation, [helped] by putting something on the dinner table, then help us.”

Mike Padgett was elected to Knox County Board of Education in 1984 but sought the County Clerk post two years later. He began 20-years of service as clerk upon first being elected in 1986.

Mark said his father isn’t new to big political challenges because of 1986 when he was “not very well known and was a Democrat running against Tommy Lowe, Mike Lowe’s brother, who was County Clerk at the time. Lots of money, knew everybody, had been there forever.

“You could make an argument that he had less of chance to win that race than he does to win this one,” Mark added.

Why is he running?

“He’s running because there’s a great awakening happening right now in the country,” Mark said. “You feel a need out there when there’s a movement in society. … When people need somebody to stand up and speak for them. … Stand up and help.”

How can the elder Padgett beat Alexander, an experienced national and statewide politician?

Mark said, “80,000 more Tennesseans voted for a Democrat [presidential primary] on Feb. 5, than voted for a Republican. … That was this country needing a change,” adding that his father estimated, ‘maybe 30,[000], 40,000 people that are Independents or Republicans that we have as friends that have voted for me over the years, that’s over a 100,000-vote buffer.’

“I don’t think our competition in the primary will have that luxury. I think that’s the reason dad will make a better General Election candidate.”

The younger Padgett gave Alexander a sarcastic complement. “Up until the last two years he voted with Bush 97 percent of the time, now he’s voting with him, I think, 95 percent of the time. So, he’s getting a little better,” Mark said. “Our country’s facing serious problems, high gas prices, jobs, trade … who’s looking out for creating more jobs? Our Senators [Alexander and Bob Corker] don’t have a hand in that, we don’t see anything about them creating jobs.

“We’re going to lose our footing if we’re not going to talk about the issues, if we’re just going to talk about, ‘We don’t like the other guys,’” Mark added.

As for pressing the flesh and getting out the message, “I think time will tell that we’re going to need West Tennessee and East Tennessee and not just center City of Nashville to win this,” Mark said.

“I think that’s something that dad’s talked about and we’ve worked on, is creating a 95-county strategy and getting a county person, whether it be a committee or a county chair in each of those counties, and we’re doing that right now. He’s traveled to those, two or three a day.

“You guys know dad, and he has an open-door policy — always has, always will,” Mark added.


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