On Jan. 23, 2009, Gobble was the first to throw his hat into the proverbial ring and officially announce he would be a candidate for the seat being vacated by Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp.
I had the assignment of following Gobble on Tuesday as he campaigned locally and in two other counties in the 11-county 3rd District.
Art Rhodes, who was followed by my fellow reporter David Davis, began his day about the same time the Gobble camp did.
Shortly after 7 a.m. Gobble, with his son Chris in tow, gathered with campaign manager Jeff Lewis, communications coordinator Kelley McNabb and her sister Haley and supporter Kay Shamblin at the corner of 25th and Keith streets, holding campaign signs and waving at drivers.
It was already 81 degrees and overcast.
The day grew hotter, both in the political arena as well as the temperature, which would reach into the high 90s by the late afternoon.
After two hours of waving and making sure they were seen, and listening to the honking horns of supporters, and the group went to Hardee’s on Keith Street where Gobble worked the crowd.
There he shook the hands of C.W. Bullins, O.W. Peters, Bob Hamilton, Charles Edwards and others who regularly visit the fast-food restaurant for breakfast and coffee.
After meeting everyone, Gobble and crew sat down for a quick breakfast. Then the current Bradley County sheriff traveled to the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office to check in for the day and make sure all was running smoothly.
After speaking with Chief Deputy Bill Dyer, we loaded into a cramped and hot van, filled with a 4-foot-by-8-foot sign, smaller signs and candidate handouts.
Along with the McNabb sisters, Lewis and the candidate, we lit out for Hixson and Red Bank.
While on the way south, I took the opportunity to ask each person in the van why they joined the camp.
According to Haley, she joined her sister on a very limited schedule due to her job.
“I decided to help the last few days because I like Tim and what he stands for,” said Haley.
Haley is in her junior year at UTC and plans on teaching when she graduates.
Kelley on the other hand is pursuing a master’s degree in history at the University of Kansas.
She spent two years working for Zach Wamp’s Congressional campaign and said, “When the position for communications coordinator was opened, I wanted to help the best qualified candidate,” referring to Gobble.
Kelley said she plans on working in some type of public service when she finishes her education.
Campaign manager Jeff Lewis was a financial analyst and planner. He worked for Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office and is a former member of the Hamilton County Election Commission.
He and Gobble became friends when Gobble worked in the same building while he was employed with the U.S. Secret Service.
Gobble and Lewis both contend the difference in the Gobble campaign is people who live in the 3rd District are those who make up his camp.
“The one thing that makes us different is the fact that people of the district are working with us and on the ground. They aren’t outsiders hired from outside the district to run this campaign,” said Gobble.
“We have reached a great number of people, not through TV ads, but by being on the ground and visiting businesses and homes,” Gobble added.
Lewis pulled the van into a convenience store shortly before 11 a.m. Gobble filled the van’s fuel tank, then began to visit businesses door to door.
He cautiously interrupted a meeting at a mortgage company and left literature. One of the ladies in the office said she had a Gobble sign in her yard.
Lewis said Hamilton County has been very receptive to the candidate.
After a few more stops, still traveling in the cramped van through Hixson and Red Bank, we stopped at a Red Bank eatery named Lillie Mae’s.
After ordering a plate of chicken and dressing, two orders of green beans and a Coca-Cola, Gobble again walked through and handed out literature, shook hands and met with the people.
Many of those had already voted during early voting.
Gobble took the opportunity to sit down and read some news from his smartphone.
He got interested in a story explaining the “solar tsunami” and the fallout which was supposed to reach earth Wednesday morning.
As the food was delivered to the table, Gobble and crew had taken three bites when they learned of a website problem.
Kelley immediately began to work to find out what was wrong.
After a few minutes, Kelley found out the site had been shut down by someone they claimed was a former volunteer who was the administrator.
The crew began to work toward a resolution.
As we loaded up once again, we headed toward Dayton.
It was about 1:15 p.m. as the camp walked down the street from the famous Rhea County Courthouse and entered one of the town’s most popular eating establishments, the Coffee House Restaurant.
After shaking a few more hands and talking to constituents and children, it was off to the Rhea County Courthouse, where Gobble spoke with some clerks and toured the structure in which the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” was held.
Crossing the street, Gobble spotted the General Store. He went inside and bought a bottled Coca Cola, exited into the steamy atmosphere and sat down to a game of checkers with Joe Sporazza, a Florida native who had moved to Dayton. Sporazza and the candidate entertained themselves with checkers and commentary, but the game came to a long-played draw.
Haley made her exit in Rhea County and Gobble’s son, Chris, reboarded the northbound van.
Gobble also found out his Twitter and Facebook accounts had been disabled, virtually cutting off the social networking he had been used to for the past year in efforts to further his campaign.
At 2:30, we were on our way to Anderson County and the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge.
After the hour-plus ride, Lewis explained the campaign had done much the same in Oak Ridge as it had in Hixson and Bradley County.
“Door-knocking, walking, visiting businesses, attending civic events and other activities including local government functions as well as other strategic measures have led us here,” said Lewis.
“We know we won’t get every vote, but we are looking for a certain percentage in each county,” he added.
The temperature kept rising as Gobble and camp exited the van, took the big sign and several smaller signs and began waving at drivers as they passed in front of Bissell Park, also where the National Night Out Against Crime event was to be held later that evening.
Drivers honked their horns and some even pulled into an adjacent parking lot to speak with the candidate.
During the heat of the day, Gobble responded to several phone calls as well.
After about two hours or so of waving, the crew packed up their signs and attended the National Night Out event where more handshakes were exchanged with government officials, law enforcement members and other individuals who make up the community.
The heat did not let up, nor did the candidate who walked the park along with his camp.
Shortly after 8 p.m., we loaded into the van for a trip back to Bradley County.
After 1 1/2 years of doing something regarding his campaign, with only two days left until voting day, Chris asked what needed to be done Wednesday.
Chris is a David Lipscomb student who works during the summer as a rafting guide along the Ocoee River. Earlier in the day, he had a dental appointment, guided one tour and then joined us for the trip to Oak Ridge.
Like his dad, he was focusing on what else needed to be addressed before voting day and how to get those voters to cast their ballots for his dad.
The sun began to set and Lewis decided it was time for one last meal of the day. Also, a news release was written explaining some of the issues of the website.
The Cracker Barrel in McMinn County was the choice.
After a quick, but late dinner, it was back to the interstate and toward home.
And yes, being a reporter tagging along, I was very tired from both the heat and the length of the day as well as continuing to recover from a recent surgery.
But, after the dinner, the trip home turned to the lighter side.
Gobble went back to the website on his phone where he continued to read about the “solar tsunami,” then began to quip about his inability to social network.
“Here is your headline,” he turned in the seat and stated to me.
“Gobble goes cold turkey on ‘Tweeting.’”
I think I will leave it at that!