Stacey Campfield is probably the worst excuse for a state senator that Knox County has ever seen.
Scarcely a month goes by that Campfield doesn't perpetrate some new verbal atrocity that makes him a disgrace to the community he purports to serve.
In May, he displayed egregious insensitivity to Holocaust survivors while taking a gratuitous shot at the Affordable Care Act by saying, "Democrats bragging about the number of sign-ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of mandatory sign-ups for ‘train rides' for Jews in the '40s."
Before that, in the course of lambasting people in the gay rights movement as "the biggest bullies in the world," he went on to liken homosexuality to bestiality. When asked why schools shouldn't be allowed to teach about the gay rights movement, just as with the civil rights movement, he responded, "Because they are different types of movements. If I want to talk about the bestiality movement, do you think we should be teaching that?"
From his "Don't Say Gay" bill to his attempt to cut TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) benefits to parents whose children have failing grades in school, his legislative efforts have been intemperate but thankfully ineffective in a body where he's widely viewed with contempt on both sides of the aisle.
So how did such a rogue manage to get elected in the first place? And what's to be done to get rid of him now?
Part of the answer to the first question lies in the fact that Campfield, at age 45, has seemingly held no other job except to cultivate the voters of his 7th Senate District, which encompasses much of West Knoxville and extends through downtown to include a part of East Knoxville. As he knocks on doors throughout his district or in a small-group setting, Campfield can be charming. And his notoriety has given him name recognition and even celebrity status with a public that doesn't pay that much attention to what their elected officials actually say or do.
Still, Campfield only won the Republican nomination to his Senate seat in 2010 with less than 40 percent of the vote. He was opposed by two respectable candidates (former hospital official and school board chairman Steve Hill and former UT associate general counsel Ron Leadbetter) who managed to split the "respectability vote" and give Campfield his winning plurality. Even though he had a Democrat opponent, the Republican nomination is tantamount to election in this district.
This time around, thank goodness, Campfield has a yet more worthy opponent—indeed, the worthiest I could imagine. The other prime candidate in this year's August Republican primary is Dr. Richard Briggs who, to my way of thinking, is just about the most impressive individual presently holding public office in Knox County.
Indeed, it's almost beyond me how he manages to combine being a preeminent heart and lung surgeon with being as conversant as he is with the vast array of issues that come before County Commission where he represents the West Knox 5th District. When Briggs speaks at Commission meetings, his colleagues pay respectful attention. And the same must hold true for his fellow physicians or he wouldn't have served as president of the Knoxville Academy of Medicine.
Briggs is also an Army colonel who was awarded a Bronze Star during Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s and has more recently served active-duty tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as a combat trauma surgeon.
As he sees it, this election is about "who do you entrust to be your representative? Do you trust the doctor who's performed heart surgery? Do you trust the Army colonel who's taken care of our wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you trust the man who's served for six years on County Commission and shown himself to be a responsible person?"
I've got to believe the vast majority of Metro Pulse readers will answer: Briggs, not Campfield. But the question then becomes: Will they go to the polls and record their preference?
The terribly disappointing turnout in the May primary for Knox County offices in which fewer than 10 percent of registered voters bothered to do so leaves room for kooky things to happen.
So I would exhort each of you who reads this column to turn out and vote for Richard Briggs in the Aug. 7 Republican primary for which early voting starts on July 18. If you're a Democrat, you will still be able to vote for the Democrat candidate, school teacher Cheri Siler, in the November general election, but only the Republican primary is contested.