There is no "R" for Republican or "D" for Democrat after Bayron Binkley’s name, and from his point of view, that’s good. And bad.
Binkley is a longtime Nashville-area real estate agent who says he got so fed up with what he perceives as incivility in politics that he decided to do something about it: He’s running for governor of Tennessee.
"Somebody, somewhere needs to step out and point out what the problems are," says Binkley, an agent for SilverPointe Properties in Brentwood, Tenn. "I used to write a little blog and would write on real estate-related items or sometimes political items.
"All of a sudden, the response came back — ‘Well, do something. You’ve got some good ideas. Why don’t you run?’ "
So he’s doing it. He’s one of 13 individuals who have filed petitions to run as independent candidates, out of a total field of 19 who filed.
It’s his first try for any elective office, though in the 1970s he volunteered in a few local races and in Gerald Ford’s presidential campaign. He says he’s firmly an independent now.
"I voted Republican for many years, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen what the political games are between the parties, and I’ve gotten frustrated with that," he says.
His is an admittedly idealistic view of "gameless" politics, which eschews the horse-trading that traditionally goes with the territory.
"(Playing games) is who you have to know, what deals you have to make, what you have to give up to get a piece of legislation," Binkley says. "Whether it’s a Democratic or Republican initiative, I don’t care — if it improves the quality of life in Tennessee, we need to work to get that done and not get sidetracked."
He believes that the timing is right for independents in politics.
"CNN came out with a poll in February that stated that now 42 percent of registered voters consider themselves independent," he says. "I think more people are sharing that sentiment."
But there’s a downside to that, he agrees. He says not being affiliated with either major party makes it hard to raise campaign money — and to get attention, period.
"You hope that with more media coverage, people will discover you," he says. "Our newspapers and our broadcast media have not helped at all. You have to have either the "D" or the "R" after your name.
"In certain areas of the state, if you’re not a certain party, they will not mention you."
Binkley is hoping to gain more financial and media traction after the major parties’ statewide primaries in August, which will narrow the Republican and Democratic field.
At this point, though he has received some individuals’ contributions, no money has come from Realtor groups. He hasn’t sought any, and says the various arms of the trade group are focused on the Republican and Democratic races.
"It won’t be until the August primaries that they decide who they support," he says.
He says, however, various local Realtor groups know him and know he’s running.
"I have to walk a fine line," he says. "Even though I’m a Realtor, I believe a lot of the problems come from special-interest groups and a lot of people would perceive that (Realtor political action committees) are special-interest groups.
"I don’t want my local boards to feel compelled that because I’m a Realtor, they have to give me something," Binkley says. …CONTINUED
He estimates that his campaign absorbs about 25 percent of his time these days, and he’s been making campaign appearances before small groups. Last week, his schedule included stops in Murfreesboro and some southern counties in the state, he says.
Among his campaign issues (discussed in detail at www.binkley4governor.com) are developing a statewide school-voucher system and diverting toward college education the $90 million he says is spent on pre-kindergarten programs each year.
He says he’d create economic-development zones that would attract businesses into the state, and he would eliminate a state tax on investment income.
He has strong attitudes rooted in housing, he says.
"I have a bone to pick with certain real estate-related industries," he says. "There are some things about appraisers and lenders that I’d like to raise a little Cain about."
He wants to eliminate the credit-scoring system because "it’s broken and it got us into the problems we’re in today," Binkley says. He says as governor he would work with federal legislators to undo credit scoring and install, instead, what he calls a merit-based system.
"You actually take a true credit report, consider their income, their past history, a good appraisal and whether (a loan) makes sense — consider whether their ratios are still good to get this loan," he says.
He sees the state as a business, with the governor as chief executive, and he would develop a business plan for Tennessee, an attitude that he says he developed after 25 years in real estate.
Binkley, 53, says he literally grew up in the business. His family developed real estate, and his mother has now retired from a career in brokerage.
"My specialty (as a child) was cleaning out houses, getting them ready to be sold," he says. "If there was a dirty bathtub, my job was to clean it up."
After college, he worked in banking for nine years, then went into real estate in 1985.
"It used to be my mother, myself and my son David — we’re a team," he says. "My mother has retired and my son still works with me on a daily basis. We still call ourselves Team Binkley, though there are just the two of us now."
He was principal broker of his company for 20 years, and sold it in 2000, though he stayed on with the business, Binkley says.
"Now I’m a regular old broker," he says. "I wanted to run my own business, and I did it. But it took me out of my selling element. I had two offices, 60 agents and six full-time employees.
"But I don’t know that I was really happy," he says. "I enjoyed the success of the office, but there’s something about being out there making sales, generating listings, working with people and having that kind of connection that I wasn’t getting in our office."
What he’s seen on the job is part of what motivated him to run for governor.
"These last couple of years we’ve seen people who have suffered," he says. "In showing properties, I see an empty house with toys thrown around, and you know it’s been a foreclosure or a short sale, and you know how these people have been greatly impacted by the economy.
"We all know, as Realtors, what moves the economy and it’s housing," he says. "Sometimes people in our state or on Capitol Hill, they forget or they’re slow to remember that if housing falls, we will all suffer."
Other candidates for governor who are also independents: June Griffin, James Reesor and Carl "Twofeathers" Whitaker.
Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.
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