Going forward from Tsunami Tuesday:
LOSER: Courthouse Culture. For years on end, incumbents in the fee offices won elections, usually without opposition, and when they retired they turned the office over to their deputy. They were largely ignored by the general populace. Term limits dealt a mortal wound to the system; the election killed it. Going forward, term limits will ensure it is not resurrected. Mike Lowe demonstrated that the only dodge, running for another fee office, will not work either.
WINNER: News Sentinel, Public Trust PAC. The newspaper and the "good government" group gave the voters guidance on how to express outrage. They vouched for a group
of candidates not part of the existing political system. Voters focused on these candidates, didn't split the anti-vote among several candidates, and avoided "incumbents" winning with a plurality. The slate was more powerful than money, organization, or name recognition. Name recognition was the kiss of death.
LOSER: Knox County tax payers? The next county budget will be critical. It will most likely require a huge tax increase or drastic budget cuts. The budget last year was put together with smoke, mirrors, and borrowed money. When it comes time to vote on this year's budget, the majority of Commission will consists of term-limited Commissioners and "caretakers," neither of whom will have to face the voters. Anything can happen, from draconian cuts to non-profits or a huge tax increase.
WINNER: Charter changes. The election demonstrated voters are paying attention and any suggestion of back-room deals or trying to thwart the will of the voters will cost you dearly. Any charter changes proposed will most likely be placed on the ballot by whoever gets appointed to the County Commission. Ignore voters at your peril.
LOSER: The anti-Ragsdale faction. The faction headed by Commission Chair Scott Moore was diminished to the point that Moore resigned as chair. It was the thing to do—his presiding over the selection of replacements for eight empty commission seats was an invitation to another round of controversy.
WINNER: The Democrats. Since most incumbents were Republicans, it was a golden opportunity for Democrats to pick up seats. The party tried to recruit candidates in all races, but was not successful in many of them. There are some people now kicking themselves for not running. As it is, the party has picked up the 1st and 2nd Districts, most likely, and they have a shot at the 4th and 6th Districts, County Clerk, Trustee, Register of Deeds, and Sheriff.
LOSER: The 4th District. The County Commission district has been without representation since the Sunshine lawsuit removed the appointees. But most of the people who won primaries in the 4th District have refused to apply to be named as a replacement until the August election. They all ran to represent their district and now refuse to represent their district through the next budget cycle.
WINNER: Mike Ragsdale. The biggest win for Ragsdale was not being on the ballot. He doesn't have to face the voters again before he is term-limited out in 2010. The anti-Ragsdale faction is splintered and votes for a vigorous prosecution of his financial missteps are diminished. But most of the newcomers are not in his corner, either. The audits will be fully reviewed, though one suspects there will be much less "political theater" involved and thus the acrimony may be dampened down.
LOSER: Jimmy "J.J." Jones' air of inevitability as the next sheriff has been called into question, given the fate of so many "incumbents" last week.
WINNER: The voters. There are about 20,000 extra voters who showed up last week and no one knows who they are. Previous models of county elections, voter lists, and mailing lists do not account for these new voters. The huge early voting total also precludes finding out where they live. They will be back in August and in the meantime candidates will have to figure out how to appeal to them. It is a conundrum.