Your viewer guide on what to watch for in next week’s election
by Frank Cagle
We’re having an election next week. You may not care, you may be angry about all that’s gone on with term limits. You may be sick of the bickering in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. But it doesn’t mean you have to be left out on election night. After all, the movie critics handicap the Oscars and you watch them, even when you haven’t seen the movies. As far as elections are concerned, you can at least enjoy it as a spectator sport. Not to mention the schadenfreude.
Here is your pre-game story and things to look out for on election night. You will notice a theme. The business/political establishment in Knoxville has committed support to eliminate various candidates and support their friends. Will insurgents win? What political figures have the ability to influence other elections? You make the call.
• Freshmen members of the General Assembly are supposed to be seen and not heard. State Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, spent his first term being obnoxious, causing trouble, criticizing House leadership and, most famously, criticizing the Black Caucus as a non-profit seriously in need of reform and better accounting practices.
Campfield’s antics, and his borderline unreadable rants on his blog, earned the enmity of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and others, and they have encouraged Knoxville’s establishment not to send this troublemaking bastard back down there. They want to set an example for future freshmen House members. So the business community and the courthouse crowd have lined up behind a young man named Gary Drinnen to beat Campfield in the Republican primary. Campfield has countered with House Minority Leader Bill Dunn, who has endorsed him in radio commercials. Anyone who thinks Campfield will lose because he criticized the Black Caucus is really clueless.
• There is a slate of anti-incumbent and pro-term limit candidates determined to beat long-serving County Commissioners. The bell cow to watch is Commissioner Billy Tindell, the longest serving member of Commission and one of those who sued to overturn the county Charter. He is being opposed by write-in candidate Amy Broyles, supported by grassroots Democrats, and the competition is fierce. If early returns show Tindell going down, other term limited County Commissioners could be in for a long night. Special feature to watch: Will Republicans out west vote for a Democrat instead of John Griess? Will Democrats in East Knoxville vote for a Republican instead of Diane Jordan? The possibility of a Democrat beating South Knox Republican Commissioner Larry Clark sent Clark to the hospital last week with chest pains. The thing to watch is whether incumbents lose in a tidal wave or whether the insurgency will be limited to Tindell’s race and be a localized tempest.
• County Mayor Mike Ragsdale is watching three races closely. He is backing Drinnen against Campfield. He is also backing Democrat Margaret Massey-Cox against Republican Greg “Lumpy” Lambert. He also backs Lee Martin for the deep West Knox school board seat against Thomas Deakins. Should Drinnen, Massey-Cox and Martin go down in defeat, it will reveal a serious lack of political acumen in the County Mayor’s office.
• The Democrats have had a golden opportunity to capture courthouse
• State Rep. Frank Niceley has been a farmer all his adult life. He has proposed getting arsenic out of chicken, water out of the milk and mad cow prions out of animal feed in Tennessee. This has angered agri-business interests and they have a representative up in his district urging farmers to vote against him. It will be interesting to see whether consumers and farmers favor Niceley’s positions or the clout of the agri-business boys.
• Over the years the Republican Party has neglected putting up strong candidates for criminal court judgeships and most of the posts are held by Democrats. Rather than do something about Judge Ray Lee Jenkins, whose health problems are common knowledge around the courthouse, the Republicans gave him a pass for re-election. They now face the possibility of a win by Democrat Ken Irvine, which would mean Democrats would be three for three for Criminal Court judges.
Frank Cagle is a political analyst and the editor of Knoxville Magazine . You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .