Kingsport Democrat Bill Jones launched his long-shot bid Saturday to unseat Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Blountville from his Tennessee 2nd Senatorial District seat.
Jones, 65, a certified public accountant taking his first stab at public service, knows the political math is not in his favor.
“It’s going to be tough, I know that,” Jones said of the notion of beating Ramsey, a Republican incumbent with statewide name recognition.
In 2004, Ramsey defeated Sullivan County Commissioner John McKamey, a Piney Flats Democrat and former county executive of Sullivan County, by more than 20,000 votes.
Jones said he has raised about $1,300 for his campaign so far from small donations.
In contrast, Ramsey had more than $206,000 in his campaign account in his first-quarter filing with the Registry of Election Finance.
Jones stressed he will run a positive campaign on the premise that people want new leadership in the district seat.
“The more accepted I get, the more I’ll get from the undecided vote,” Jones said. “I’m running to bring change to the 2nd District. ... I think the 2nd District is falling behind other sections of the state as far as overall economic growth, and that has caused our standard of living not to keep pace. I think our quality of life has suffered too. This has been going on for quite awhile before our current economic downturn.
“What we need is more help in leadership. In the past it’s been allowed to drift. I think I can bring proactive leadership. With high gas and food prices, people can hardly afford to get to work.”
Jones said his 33-year career working as an accountant in the federal government makes him qualified to serve.
“During that career ... I audited many large corporations that had large multimillion dollar contracts with the Department of Defense,” he said. “It cut across everything from aircraft to food preparation, boots, gloves and things like that. I had to deal with top management all the way down. ... I negotiated contracts for major weapons systems.
“I think I bring an overall business view and a variety of experience that no one else can bring. That would have been valuable during this last budget cycle when Governor (Phil) Bredesen was dealing with that funding shortfall. ... I think I can bring something unique and will listen to the people.”
Jones insisted he wasn’t afraid of running a campaign against a well-known incumbent.
“I know he’s the incumbent,” Jones said of Ramsey. “He has the money and the backing, and it does bring prestige to the area. But my response is ... any incumbent can be beaten. I also believe that prestige is not used properly for the benefit of the people. ... I can’t see anything that’s been done with that prestige and influence that has helped the 2nd District. Prestige won’t put food on the table. It won’t put gas in your car or pay for a college education. ... He is the incumbent, but what has he done for our district?”
Jones noted the Tennessee Democratic Party (TDP) is focusing on other Senate races but has pledged to help him.
“They think that it is doable up here, and this is a Republican bastion here,” Jones said of TDP. “Nationwide it’s the year for change. People are upset with the economy. New registered voters are going more and more toward the Democratic Party.”
The 2nd Senatorial District covers all of Sullivan and Johnson counties.