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Casey with two of his siblings on Beale Street in Memphis on the day he was awarded his doctorate.

MEET CASEY

A native of East Tennessee, Casey Nicholson was adopted by his parents when he was just a few months old.  Through them, Casey would become a Ninth Generation Tennessean, with his family tree dating back to ancestors who settled here before Tennessee became a state.  His distant relatives include Tennessee’s first Christian pastor, soldiers who fought with the famous Overmountain Men in the Revolutionary War, and also a member of the Tennessee Union Cavalry at the time of the Civil War.

 

Casey grew up in Greeneville, a small town in northeast Tennessee between Knoxville and the Tri-Cities.  The Appalachian Mountains have served as the backdrop for much of Casey’s life.  His grandfather was a local celebrity who had played on the Grand Ole Opry as a young man.  His father worked as an auto mechanic and his mother taught elementary school for thirty-eight years.  The family split up when Casey was a young child, but that led to Casey having new family members when his father remarried.  Between his own adoption, his parents’ divorce, and his having half-siblings later on, Casey knows that Tennessee families don’t always look conventional or traditional.  He strongly believes that “love is love," and that “Y’all means All”.

During his high school years, Casey developed an interest in politics that would last a lifetime.  Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for the White House resonated with Casey, since Clinton’s story of his mother as a single parent sounded a lot like Casey’s story of his own single mother providing for him off of a teacher’s salary.  Since that time Casey has always identified as a Democrat, sympathizing with the party’s care and compassion for working families and those who society sometimes overlooks.

As a young man, Casey became involved in church and he became a candidate for ministry while a student at Walters State Community College in Morristown.  He knew he would be seminary bound by the time he made it to East Tennessee State University, and so he opted for a general studies degree at ETSU that would allow him to take courses that would serve him well in a career in ministry.  While there he also took some of his first courses in philosophy and political theory, forming the basis for what would turn into a lifelong interest in the intersection of religion and politics.

He strongly believes that "love is love," and  that "Y'all means All."

Dr. Casey Nicholson is an ordained Cumberland Presbyterian minister who lives and works in his hometown of Greeneville. He was ordained in 2005, and served churches in Mississippi and East Tennessee before starting a counseling practice in 2017.

Casey grew up in northeast Tennessee, but lived in Memphis for three years while attending seminary in his twenties.  As a Ninth Generation Tennessean who drove back and forth from Memphis to the Tri-Cities often, Casey developed a love for all things Tennessee.  He has preached in churches all across the state in towns like Talbott, Farragut, Waverly, Selmer, Trenton, and Arlington. He has visited every corner of the state, from standing by the dam at Hurricane Mills to standing between the cannons atop Lookout Mountain; from hiking to waterfalls along the Natchez Trace Parkway to walking to the overlook atop Cumberland Gap National Park; and from Thursday night football at UT-Martin to Saturday evening concerts in The Caverns at Pelham. Casey's story is the story of a man with a deep love for the State of Tennessee, and now Casey is stepping forward to do what he can to help the place he loves so much.

Casey has been involved in politics over the years, having been the Democratic nominee for 5th-District State Representative in 2008, as well as Chair of the Greene County Democratic Party from 2017-2019. He also served as district representative for the 1st Congressional District to the Tennessee Democratic County Chairs Association from 2017-2019. He is also a co-founder of Indivisible Greene County, a group of concerned citizens that has worked to bring attention to a variety of social issues and current events in northeast Tennessee.

Casey Nicholson, 43, holds undergraduate degrees from Walters State Community College and East Tennessee State University, as well as graduate degrees from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Memphis Theological Seminary. His doctorate is in pastoral counseling.

 

After college Casey moved across the state to attend Memphis Theological Seminary, one of the state’s premier graduate schools in religion with a diverse student body from dozens of denominational backgrounds that prepares pastors for congregational ministry and other areas of church service.  There Casey was exposed to Christian social ethics and the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and through his studies he gained important insight into the role of the Church in society.  Still wanting to know more, Casey took some philosophy classes at the University of Memphis during his time in seminary as well, exposing himself to not just church knowledge, but to the broader history of philosophy and ethics.  He put that knowledge into practice while serving a rural church south of Memphis in his final year of seminary.  What started as filling in a couple of Sundays in Mississippi turned into Casey's first pastorate when the congregation was impressed enough with Casey to issue him a formal call to ministry, which would lead to his becoming an ordained minister.

 

After seminary, Casey moved overseas where he became a postgraduate research student at the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.  There he studied contextual theology and ethics, all while using the intersection of religion and politics in state level politics in Tennessee as a case study for his research interest.  His time at St Andrews made him a scholar in political philosophy and theology, and he conducted a historical survey of contemporary politics in Tennessee from the 1970’s through the early 2000’s.  Casey is not just someone who has a passing interest in Tennessee politics, but instead he's someone who's put in the time and effort to study the state's political history.  He understands how we got to where we are now, and he has a firm grasp on the issues that matter to Tennesseans.

After living in Scotland Casey returned home and went into the pastorate, where he preached and led congregations in Greeneville and Maryville, before opting to further his education while focusing on family for several years.  From 2015-2021, Casey played the role of caregiver for both an uncle who became homebound before passing in 2018, as well as his mother, a dementia patient diagnosed since 2012.  Casey stepped up when his family needed him, putting his career on hold so he could focus on those closest to him in their time of need.  But Casey also made the best of his time by earning both a second masters degree, this time in philosophy from the University of Tennessee--Knoxville, as well as a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling from Memphis Theological Seminary while being a caregiver.  His recent academic work focused not only on topics relevant to ministry and counseling, but also contemporary political philosophy, the history of moral philosophy, and social epistemology.  Since 2017 he’s juggled family and academic responsibilities with being a student practitioner who is pursuing licensure as a licensed therapist, working with people in his home community who face struggles such as grief, trauma, and addiction. Casey has always been serious about putting his education into the service of others, and he lives out his faith rather than just talking about it.

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WHY IS CASEY RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR?

Casey is running to bring a sense of normalcy and common sense back to Tennessee politics.

Casey is running for Governor of Tennessee to correct the course we find ourselves on as the result of four years of the current administration’s inability to say no to the fringe element of the Republican Party.  Since Bill Lee assumed office in 2018, the Tennessee General Assembly has done nothing but pass useless laws that hurt the people of the state.  The crisis highlights Lee’s lack of judgment and his inability to serve as a check and balance on the legislature’s further drifting toward the far-right margin of American politics.

 

Examples include the 2020 “heartbeat” law outlawing abortion in all cases, including situations in which a woman’s life is in jeopardy.  Governor Lee knew that the heartbeat law would be struck down in federal court, but he signed it into state law anyway.  The same goes for the 2021 “bathroom” bill requiring businesses to display signs telling who they allow into their bathrooms.  Both those laws were halted in the courts within days of their going into effect, costing Tennessee taxpayers large sums of money to defend in court.  Governor Lee should have seen that coming, and should have demonstrated leadership by setting an agenda for his party that operated within the bounds of what is possible and pragmatic rather than one that kowtowed to a runaway Republican fantasy.

 

Likewise, Governor Lee has demonstrated an inability to lead on the coronavirus.  In mid 2020, when the state’s medical community was calling for tougher restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19, Bill Lee chose to reopen the economy with very few restrictions.  Because of that, the state’s virus numbers increased steadily through the fall, with the crisis peaking at the holidays.  Had Bill Lee taken appropriate action in mid-2020, more Tennesseans would have lived into 2021 and would have had access to the vaccine that would come with the new year.  Since then, Bill Lee has presided over one of the lowest vaccination turnout efforts in the country through mid-2021, culminating in the radical decisions to fire state health officials and rewrite the Tennessee Department of Health’s stance on vaccine education. 

 

Covid-19 was a test of leadership, and Bill Lee failed that test.  Choosing what bills to sign into law was a test of judgment, and Bill Lee failed there as well.  Time and time again, when Bill Lee was faced with choices that would demonstrate good judgment or lack thereof, the Governor exhibited the latter.  Casey is running to restore the reputation of the State of Tennessee, and to bring a sense of normalcy and sanity back to Nashville.

IS CASEY QUALIFIED
TO BE GOVERNOR?

Casey is a proven leader who can get things done.

Not only does Casey have the necessary academic training to be a good Governor, he also has real life experience that will serve him well in Nashville.  As a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, Casey has spent his entire life working in churches where he has served on and led committees and boards that are assigned various tasks in a church setting.  His ability to aid and assist groups charged with church oversight will serve him well in overseeing the various agencies and departments of the Tennessee state government. 

 

And, it’s worth noting that Casey’s experience has not been limited to just working in local congregations in his job as pastor.  Casey has also served as board chairman for regional church bodies, including the Chair of his local governing body’s Committee on Theology and Social Concerns where he helped churches think through contemporary issues that have legal repercussions like church liability issues and safe sanctuary practices.  Casey was most recently elected Chair of another regional church board that focuses on assisting congregations in times of turmoil and transition. In that role he’s been involved in arbitration for property disputes and pastoral succession.  Significantly, his time as Chair of that committee put him in charge of providing Covid-19 guidance to churches in East Tennessee.  While Bill Lee was ignoring the guidance of the Tennessee Hospitals Association on the coronavirus, Casey was helping churches know how to operate safely as they navigated the pandemic.

 

Casey’s background may be in church life, but he’s a proven leader who can get things done.

 

Likewise, Casey is not without his own political background.  In 2008 he ran for State Representative.  Running as a Democrat in northeast Tennessee is no easy task, but Casey ran a dignified campaign where he learned a lot about the election process.  A decade later Casey was elected Chair of the Greene County Democratic Party, a position that made him responsible for candidate recruitment and overseeing the Party’s functions through the 2018 election cycle.  Under Casey’s leadership, the Democrats were able to field a slate of over a dozen local candidates in a county dominated by the Republican Party.

 

All this is to say that while Casey may have never held a public office, he’s nevertheless a proven public servant who has held numerous leadership roles in both a church setting and in local Democratic politics. 

 

And remember:  Bill Lee had never held office before he was elected Governor in 2018.  As such, Governor Lee has proven that a person doesn’t have to have been mayor or to have served in the legislature to keep the state government running from day to day. 

 

What Casey has that Governor Lee lacks, however, is the judgment to lead.  That judgment is what will make Casey a good Governor, and why you should vote for Casey in 2022.  With your support, Casey will win this race, and will restore common sense to Nashville.