He's been called a "gadfly" and a "perennial candidate."
John Jay Hooker, an 83-year-old Nashville attorney who has run for most major elected offices over the last 50 years, is threatening again to run for office -- this time against Gov. Bill Haslam -- if he doesn't get his way on how the state's appellate and Supreme Court judges are evaluated and elected.
Since 1994, when the current judicial system was adopted, he's vigorously opposed the state's method of having "retention elections" for higher court judges, meaning voters only get to vote "yes" or "no" on whether to keep a judge. Unlike local and trial court judges, people can't simply file to run against appellate or Supreme Court judges.
Hooker wants Haslam to change that.
"We need to 'Get into the word' as they say in religion. We need to get into the word that says, 'Thou shalt not steal,'" Hooker said Tuesday. "I want him not to steal my right to run for judgeship."
He's already sued the state, successfully getting a Davidson County Circuit Court judge to declare the Tennessee's Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission was unconstitutionally seated because its members don't "approximate the population of the state with respect to race and gender," as Tennessee law dictates. And he's filed a second suit saying that anything decided after the judge's ruling should be tossed out as void.
Hooker has run unsuccessfully for governor in 1966, 1970 and 1998. He met with the same results when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1976, 1994 and 1996. While he's traditionally run as a Democrat, he said he'd likely try to run against Haslam as a Republican, to force the issue of judicial elections into the spotlight.
"They probably won't let me run in the Republican primary, but I'll try," Hooker said."I don't expect to win but I'm serious in the sense that I'd like to make a real lot of noise."