County Elections Unlikely to Yield New Faces

During the debate over collapsing the Knox County Commission from 19 members down to 11 and creating two at-large positions, it was argued that the county-wide positions would be occupied by West Knoxville people, giving that area of the county more representation than other districts: more money, more voters from Bearden to Farragut.

Given that one county-wide commissioner is likely to be Mike Hammond, a West Knox commissioner unopposed in the Republican primary on Tuesday, it would appear to be true. The other county-wide commission race pits Commissioner Richard " Bud" Armstrong, from East Knox County, versus Commissioner Ed Shouse from West Knoxville (Bearden). Shouse is well known from 20 years on Knoxville City Council and his neighborhood traditionally produces heavy voter turnout. Armstrong's district, rural East, not so much. (Of course they are running county-wide, so anyone can vote for either. We are talking about their base of support.)

That's just one of the things to watch for in Tuesday's election, because in Knox County winning the Republican primary usually is tantamount to winning the election.

Some other things to watch for:

One of the more surprising things about this election is how few contested races there are. Reducing two Commission seats to one could have produced a lot of incumbents facing off. But in many cases one of the commissioners stepped aside—Mark Harmon deferred to Amy Broyles in the 2nd, Greg "Lumpy" Lambert didn't run against seatmate Brad Anders. In six of the nine district Commission seats the incumbent does not have primary opposition.

In South Knoxville you do have two incumbents running. Paul Pinkston is in a spirited race with Mike Brown. Pinkston, who succeeded his popular brother, the late Howard Pinkston, is favored in the race. But Pinkston has been a controversial whistle-blower on Commission, the leading critic of financial mismanagement in county government. Brown has run as the "quiet" candidate. Does Pinkston get rewarded for being the outspoken critic, or are people tired of controversy and turning to Brown? We'd bet on Pinkston, but it may be a close race.

Out in Halls/Fountain City, incumbent R. Larry Smith is running against incumbent Michele Carringer. An interesting match-up. But businesswoman Lillian Williams is also in the race. This may mean that the anti-Smith vote is split between Carringer and Williams, in which case Smith would seem to be the favorite.

Out east, incumbent Dave Wright is being challenged by Duane Bias. Given that Wright has avoided controversy and doesn't seem to have anyone mad at him, the nod likely goes to the incumbent.

Considering the "throw the bums out" election of two years ago, it is remarkable how many courthouse officeholders are unopposed. Register of Deeds Sherry Witt. Circuit Clerk Cathy Quist. Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey. Sessions Judge Patricia Long. Sheriff Jimmy "JJ" Jones has only nominal opposition from one of his jailers. County Clerk Foster Arnett shouldn't have much trouble with challenger Debbie Cole, a former clerk's office employee. John Duncan III is unopposed for Trustee.

Though the Republican primary is usually the election there will be a few things to watch for in the general. Republican Jeff Ownby is running against incumbent Democratic Commissioner Finbarr Saunders in the Bearden area. In North Knoxville Democratic incumbent Amy Broyles is opposed in the general by independent Don Daugherty. Lewis Cosby is an independent who will oppose the winner of the Republican primary in the county mayor's race. There will also be a Democratic candidate, either Ezra Maize (in the suit) or Michael McBath (in the T-shirt).

But the main event on Tuesday will be the county mayor's race pitting state Sen. Tim Burchett against former Sheriff Tim Hutchison. It has been conventional wisdom that Burchett wins handily, but I think the race has tightened recently. The constant barrage of criticism of Hutchison may have produced a backlash. I still think Burchett wins, but it may not be the runaway some are predicting.

To sum up the election? There are unlikely to be any new faces in county government after this election, just a shuffling of some of the chairs. And West Knoxville will have more commissioners than other parts of the county.