Byron Looper was a Tennessee politician
who ran for the Tennessee state senate
. Although he didn't win the election, he became well-known across the state (and even the country) for his non-traditional campaign tactics. The incumbent Tommy Burks
, a popular Democrat
, was almost certain to win until he was found dead in his still-running truck on October 19, 1998
. Under Tennessee law, any candidate who dies prior to the election
must be removed from the ballot.
Byron Looper was convinced that Tennessee was run by the "Good old boy" network, a political machine that controlled every aspect of the state's politics. He was determined to change this any way he could. In 1996 he ran for the Putnam County tax assessor. He won a narrow victory against the incumbent after legally changing his middle name from Anthony to Low Tax and claiming that his opponent had fixed tax assessments to favor his friends, a claim which was completely fabricated. Still, taxes had gone up under the incumbent's watch, and Looper offered "A new kind of leader." He won the office by 1100 votes.
He claimed he was a new kind of leader, and everyone soon agreed that he was- he rarely showed up to work. He would often disappear for days at a time. He fired dozens of people for no reason at all and sent press releases to every newspaper in the state accusing the county commission of plotting against him. The people he fired filed a suit against him, charging that they were dismissed because they supported Looper's Democratic predecessor- a claim that he denied, revealing that he was secretly a Democrat himself. It turns out he was telling the truth, he had been a Democrat until he failed to gain the favor of the party officials. He changed parties after learning that there would be no GOP candidate for assessor. The local Democratic party chairman renounced his membership. Rumors soon began circulating that Byron was attending law school rather than working- he was listed as a student at the John Marshall School of Law in Georgia. He was the subject of nearly a dozen lawsuits, including one when he tried to give several properties to a neighboring county.
Low Tax had three of his employees photocopy more than 5000 pages of County Commission records, claiming he was investigating the "good ol' boy network that controls" Putnam County. He sued to make a number of documents public, only to learn that they already were. When he realized that he was quickly becoming unpopular with even his most dedicated supporters, he decided to back off. He issued a formal apology, writing off his aggressive style as "overzealousness" to create more fair taxation.
Tommy Burks was by all accounts a great guy. Nobody wanted to run against him simply because he was doing a great job representing the area in the state senate. Burks was a farmer through and through, running a successful pumpkin and tobacco farm. Looper knew that he had no chance of winning an election against Burks, In the summer of 1998, he told his friend Joe Bond that he had a sure-fire way of winning the election, all he needed was a gun. Used to Looper's sometimes sick sense of humor, Bond ignored the comment and helped Looper buy a 9mm handgun.
On a cool October morning, Tennessee State Senator Tommy Burks was headed to a pumpkin patch when farmhand Wesley Rex says he saw a black car pull up alongside Burks' parked pickup, then drive away quickly. Rex soon found his boss lifeless in his truck. Later, when a news broadcast aired a photo of Byron Low Tax Looper identifying him as the sole candidate for State Senate, Wesley identified the photo as the man driving the dark car.
Looper was arrested a few days later for the murder of Tommy Burks. He hid in Arkansas for a few days, where he confessed to Joe Bond, the friend who helped him obtain the gun. He lost the Senate election to Charlotte Burks, Tommy's widow in the largest write-in election in the state's history. He was removed from his tax assessor office in January of 1999. He was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole.
http://www.somethingawful.com and Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka for inspiration