NASHVILLE, TN — Chad Riden will lose the Governor’s race. He’s got no name recognition. “I’m the snowball’s chance in hell candidate,” he says.
Riden has appeared with several Democratic hopefuls at forums around the state. He thinks they are all insane.
“Anybody who wants to be elected should automatically be disqualified,” Riden says.
Among the 35 candidates running to take over from Gov. Bill Haslam, Riden is pretty much at the bottom of the list. He is an unknown, the darkest of dark horses.
“Running for Governor is ruining my life,” he laments. “Really wish I hadn’t done it. I thought it would be a lot funner than it is. It’s not fun. I thought it would be a lot cooler. It’s just not. It’s really a drag.”
Riden, 43, has been working comedy clubs full-time since 2010. He’s been on “The Daily Show” and the “Late Show” with David Letterman. He’s a bit like Louis C.K. who uses life-after-divorce as a wellspring for much of his humor. Riden uses his father, a fanatical Trump supporter, as a foil for his political jokes.
Riden’s campaign slogan: the only candidate who isn’t a joke. Asked why he didn’t make it “the only candidate who can tell a joke” Riden said he didn’t want people to think the other candidates weren’t funny. “Everything they say sounds like a joke,” he says.
Riden said the “big bucks” candidates are using their families in expensive TV campaign ads, so he decided to go negative and launch a series of campaign ads against himself. He asked his fifteen-year-old daughter to help. She nailed it on the first take.
“You can’t take my dad seriously. Everything he does is a joke. Everything is ironic. He’s never taken anything seriously in his whole life…he is irresponsible and you should not vote for him. Thank you and have a good day,” said Callia Riden, a sophomore at Nashville School of the Arts. So much for Riden family values.
“I’m totally a Bernie guy,” Riden says.
He is running as an Independent because he admires Sanders and hates both major parties. He only had to gather 25 signatures to get on the November ballot. He tried to enter the 2015 mayoral race and collected 75 signatures during his club gigs.
But it turned out he didn’t collect enough valid signatures. Too many people who go to comedy clubs don’t take voter registration seriously. If you move and don’t vote in two successive elections, you can be purged like a Revolutionary Guard caught listening to Rock ‘n Roll.
Kansas started the practice and the Supreme Court recently upheld it in an Ohio case. The Davidson County Election Commission purges about 10,000 voters a year from its rolls that currently list 370,000 registered voters. Homeless advocates say there are about 25,000 people with no fixed address in Davidson County. That’s an estimated 35,000 people, ten percent of all registered voters, who probably won’t vote in November because they can’t.
“It’s voter suppression.” says Riden.
Riden is against voter suppression. He doesn’t want state jobs outsourced and he opposes the privatization of schools, prisons, and other state agencies.
“As Governor of Tennessee, my main focus would be economic revitalization spurred by implementation of fiber optic internet as a state-wide public utility. I support our public schools and don’t think any elected official should make one dime more than the lowest paid teacher. I’m for unionized labor, anti-discrimination laws, #MedicareForAll, and the legalization of Cannabis. I’d like to build high speed rail connecting Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Bristol and regional transit systems,” he said.
Former Mayor Megan Barry’s Transit Plan was soundly rejected by Nashville voters in May. So we are not ready for mass transit in Nashville although Chattanooga already has a municipal broadband network, so you never know about the fiber optic plan. It might catch on in other cities.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 48 percent of likely voters think the U.S. should have Medicare For All. The House started a “Medicare-for-All “caucus in July. It has 70 members and a House “Medicare-for-All” bill has 122 co-sponsors. The Senate version has 16 co-sponsors, one-third of Senate Democrats. Single payer is no longer on the political frontier.
But in Tennessee Riden is an outlier. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is suing to end Obamacare, the closest thing we have to Medicare-for-All.
If one or more of Riden’s ideas do come to pass— legalized pot, for example—he would no longer be on the lunatic fringe. He would suddenly become a political visionary ahead of his time.
High speed rail between Tennessee’s largest cities may be a long way from China, which connects 29 of its 33 provinces with high speed rail and has 25,000 kilometers of track. But Riden says bullet trains beat the hell out of what Diane Black proposed to improve Tennessee’s highways.
“She wants to double-stack the interstates. There is nothing crazier. No downtime or mishaps there, right? Why stop at double stacks? Why not just do four levels of interstates right on top of each other like a parking garage?“
Riden spreads his ridicule evenly across the field. “Everything my opponents say— it’s bat shit. You can’t parody things that’re so crazy. You almost have to report it verbatim and it’s still a joke,” he says.
Riden identifies with the social democratic wing of the Democratic Party, but like Groucho Marx who would never join a club that would let him in, Riden still expects to win some Tea Party votes.
Cutting the salaries of state and county officials to the lowest-paid teacher’s salary makes Riden the archest of fiscal conservatives.
A Metro teacher with a Bachelor’s degree makes $43,363. City department heads and their administrative staffs, General Sessions judges, city lawyers, Mayor Briley and his staff, Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and his inner circle, Dr. Joseph Webb and his top lieutenants at General Hospital all have six-figure salaries.
If Metro paid 6,106 city employees the same as first year teachers, the city would save $106 million a year. All the candidates say they support education, but Riden says he’ll be elected Governor before any of them put their money where their mouth is.
“I don’t’ think the voters will take a comedian seriously. I don’t think they will take an Independent candidate seriously. But maybe I can push the conversation in a progressive positive direction.” he said.