PHOTO: Democrat Bill Peach is hoping to represent the 63rd district in the state legislature. He went to Merridee’s bakery in downtown Franklin 11 times last month. / Photo by Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
At a table in the middle of Merridee’s bakery in downtown Franklin, Bill Peach was collecting signatures for his petition to run for a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
He still needed two more signatures before he could file his petition, but he wants to represent the 63rd district in the state legislature. He would run against Republican incumbent Glen Casada or Casada’s challenger in the Republican primary, RaeShawn Sanchez.
He calls the bakery his office, and went there 11 times last month. On the table he had a stack of books he has written, a glass of tea he hardly touched and a two-day-old copy of the Tennesseean with a picture of man holding a rifle on the front.
In 2014, Peach ran against Jeremy Durham for a chance to represent the 65th district, but only earned about 25 percent of the vote. As a Democrat in a county that normally votes Republican, he says the odds of winning this year’s race aren’t high either.
“If I can promote introspection — if I can convince one person to analyze whatever prejudice they might hold — that moves the needle just a little bit,” he said.
He does have strong name recognition, though. Several people stopped at his table to say hello on Tuesday afternoon. He ran a men’s clothing store in downtown Franklin, and served on the school boards for Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School district for more than 20 years combined.
His main issue is education. He wants to see the state legislature commit more resources to educating students, and he thinks it’s a bad idea to give teachers guns.
Even if he does win, he said trying to push Democratic Party ideas through the mostly Republican state legislature wouldn’t make much of a difference. Instead, his goal is to change the kinds of conversations that people are having.
“I could be a voice of opposition,” he said.
Peach opposes many things: assault rifles, arming teachers, abortion, poor grammar and President Donald Trump. But he also opposes immediately writing off political candidates because of certain letter in front of their name.
“I think we live in a land of mythology,” he said. “We have been telling ourselves stories and nobody has had the imagination to examine whether those stories are true or not.”
If he can’t convince voters to change their minds, he at least wants to convince them to consider what the world looks like from the other side.
Holly McCall, the chair of the Democratic party in Williamson County, said winning this seat will be a long shot, but it’s important to offer people another option.
The party could put this race on the back burner, and instead devote more resources to a race where a Democrat is more likely to win. But McCall said it’s worth investing some time and money in this race.
“It’s important that people feel like they have options,” she said. “When people who align with more progressive ideas have nobody to vote for, it’s just not good. It’s better to have a balance of both parties.”
Democrat Courtenay Rogers ran for the seat in 2016 and lost to Casada, who was first elected in 2000 to a seat that had been held since 1992 by Mike Williams, a Democrat. McCall said she couldn’t think of any Democrats that ran for the seat between 2000 and 2016. Still, she’s glad that Peach is running this year.
“You have got to try anyway,” she said. “You can’t win if you don’t try.”
Family: Wife, Emily, and three daughters, Rebecca, Lucie and Dea.
Education: Bachelor’s of University Studies from Middle Tennessee State University, in addition to 29 hours of undergraduate work spanning seven decades.
Occupation: Men’s clothier for 47 years and author.
Community involvement: 24 years combined on Williamson County and Franklin city school boards, 35 years on Franklin Housing Authority, past president of Downtown Franklin Association, among other community groups.
Address: 705 Watson Branch Drive, Franklin