published Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Illness stalls Senate bid of Park Overall


by Chris Carroll

A Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., says she's still campaigning despite a week-old internal memo describing her as "extremely ill."

Park Overall, the actress and environmental activist best known for playing nurse Laverne Todd in the NBC sitcom "Empty Nest," confirmed Monday that an inner ear infection and diabetes have sidelined her for three weeks.

Overall, 55, described the inner ear infection as a chronic problem she "was putting off." She said political travel and a longtime bout with Type 1 diabetes worsened the dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms she was feeling.

"I called the Democrats and I said, 'I'm too unwell to continue, take me off the ballot,'" the Greeneville, Tenn., resident said in a phone interview. "They said that wasn't possible, so that settled that."

Overall then decided on surgery.

"They operated on my eardrum Thursday, and I'm on the mend," she said. "We weren't sure it would even work, but it seems to be."

Overall's last campaign event was June 2, and her latest activity on Twitter came two weeks ago. Several planned appearances in Chattanooga and Bradley County have not materialized.

A top aide offered some explanation to state and local party officials in a June 8 email obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Her campaign has been suspended and she is extremely ill," campaign spokesman Marvin Cranfield wrote.

Overall on Monday characterized her illness as "temporary." She said she would resume her senatorial bid next week after some rest and recovery.

A former Chattanooga mayor, Corker has at least $8 million in the bank for his re-election campaign. His 16 challengers collectively have raised less than $150,000 as of March 31, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Overall declared her candidacy in April, so she hasn't filed any financial information with the government. She said she's low on campaign cash, but party officials cited her Hollywood career and several well-received speeches in Nashville as evidence that she'll raise money and win the Aug. 2 Democratic primary.

The other Democrats in the race are Mark E. Clayton, Larry Crim, Gary Gene Davis, Dave Hancock, T.K. Owens and Benjamin Roberts.

Republicans challenging Corker are Fred A. Anderson, Mark Twain Clemens, Brenda Lenard and Zach Poskevich.

Independents Shaun E. Crowell, David Gatchell, James Higdon, Michel Joseph Long and Troy Stephen Scoggin also are running.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.

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