Winners and Losers
A partial list at this stage in the election process
by Frank Cagle
Is it too early to start toting up the winners and losers in the whole county Charter, term limits mess? Nah. We can always do a supplemental list.
Loser: County Commissioner David Collins has the ability, the intelligence and the charisma to have one day been mayor of either city or county government. The biggest mystery in all this mess is why he decided to join a suit to overturn the county charter, blowing up his political career and disappointing his many admirers. The former chairman of the Knox County Commission should have had better political instincts. But perhaps a defect in his political instincts is why Scott Moore is now the chairman.
Winners: Wanda Moody and Mary Lou Horner. Both these long-time County Commission members announced they supported term limits and “suspended” their campaigns before the primary in the wake of the state Supreme Court decision. They both had strong opposition and they might have been beaten anyway, but by recognizing the will of the voters they go out with dignity and could come back someday in the same or another office. (We assume, of course, Mary Lou is immortal.)
Loser: Chancellor John Weaver, in the opinion of most observers, threw the baby out with the bath water in ruling the county Charter invalid. He seemed to be more concerned with proving he was right rather than recognizing the will of the voters. He now faces the prospect of a rebuke by the state Supreme Court after a federal judge stepped in to try and sort out the mess he has made.
Winners: Other county office holders like Sheriff Tim Hutchison, county Clerk Mike Padgett, and Register of Deeds Steve Hall. It seems at this point they will get another term in office, free of term limits, but with all the focus on County Commission, no one is blaming them for it.
Loser: Mike Moyers, the county Law Director, is running for chancellor. The charter, and its alleged defects, was formulated when Dale Workman was law director. The AG opinion nullifying term limits occurred when Richard Beeler was law director. But Moyers is currently in the middle of this mess and it is certainly a distraction from his campaign and it certainly isn’t helping.
Winner: John Schmid is a paradoxical figure. He campaigned in the primary to retain his name on the ballot, arguing it would be better to leave his replacement to the county party convention rather than elect his Republican opponent, Mike Alford. Then he hooked up with Herb Moncier in a lawsuit to make other county office holders subject to term limits. After Mayor Mike Ragsdale and the ounty Commission decided to appeal to Weaver to fix the charter he filed his own appeal anyway, blowing up the plan. Despite his quirky role and his name remaining on the ballot, like the rest of his term-limited colleagues, he somehow comes out smelling like a rose.
Loser: Billy Tindell has been on the county Commission since before there was a county Commission. He began on the old county Court in 1972. He is the poster boy for term limits. He was on the charter commission that drew up the Knox County Charter and then had the gall to file a lawsuit to get it ruled invalid. He faces a strong write-in campaign from fellow Democrat Amy Broyles in the general election, and if there is any justice she will prevail.
Winner: Greg “Lumpy” Lambert is the anti-wheel tax leader running to replace Commissioner Larry Stephens in Powell. This summer was supposed to be an election in which Ragsdale and his supporters would get a Democrat elected in order to keep Lambert off Commission. With all the focus on the county Charter and term limits occupying the public mind, the media and the time of the county’s mayor, Lambert should be half way home.
Loser: Mayor Ragsdale lost control of county Commission to the sheriff during his first term. This election was supposed to be about getting his candidates elected and focusing on his second term. How do you plan for a second term when you have no idea who will be on Commission come November? How can you get a slate of commissioners elected when you don’t even know who will be on the damn ballot? He has county commissioners, with whom he has to work, doing their best to blow up the government in order to retain power. He has county office holders in the background pulling strings to keep their jobs. He is at the mercy of various judges.
We can hope the voters rise up and smite the incumbents in August, but it’s more likely they will just stay home in disgust. That makes us all losers.
Frank Cagle is a political analyst and the editor of Knoxville Magazine . You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .