Knox County Voters have spoken, in a shout. They’ve turned out of office most of the people involved in any way in the mess a former County Commission majority and the county’s fee officeholders made last January of the invocation of term limits and the appointments to fill the suddenly empty seats.
The voters were affronted by the arrogance of the appointment culprits and stimulated by highly contested presidential primaries in both parties. They slapped down all but one of the opposed former appointees, who had been ousted by a court ruling that commissioners violated the Sunshine Law with backroom deals, and the law director who advised them.
The turnout of more than 92,000 of the county’s 200,000-plus registered voters showed that the citizens have finally decided to take back their government from the cabal of professional politicians who have held it in a tight grasp for decades.
While mimicking the national Super Tuesday trend of posting majorities for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary, the county’s voters made their strongest statement in memory and brightened the outlook for the general election this August.
Despite the endorsement of his former courtroom nemesis, The Knoxville News Sentinel, and much of the Republican political establishment, Law Director John Owings was defeated soundly by attorney Bill Lockett (the Metro Pulse pick) who will be the new law director as he has no Democratic opponent in the general election.
Perhaps most gratifying, Commission Chairman Scott “Scoobie” Moore, the leader of the January appointments fiasco, was crushed in his bid to be the Republican candidate for Knox County Clerk, mustering only 15 percent of the vote in a race that saw Foster Arnett Jr., the former Knoxville Police Department spokesman, win the nomination to face Democrat Amy Henley-Vandegriff for the clerk’s office in August. Henley-Vandegriff is a clerk’s office employee fired the day she filed her petition to run against her boss, George Stooksbury, the deputy clerk.
Among the fee-office caretakers, only the interim director of the Trustee’s office, Fred Sisk, prevailed in the primary, and he faces opposition in the general.
The political machinations that led to the defeats of most of the candidates tied to the term-limits debacle were described in very unflattering terms Monday in a New York Times feature story on Knox County government. The Times piece credited this year’s prospective voters with more sense than to return the worst of the offending officeholders and commissioners to office, and The Times was correct in that assessment. That story reinforced what we have been saying all along. Throw the bastards out.
Candidates supported by Metro Pulse fared well, for the most part, with Sam McKenzie winning the Democratic nomination to serve in the Commission seat in the 1st District, which is heavily Democratic. Amy Broyles defeated our choice, Cortney Piper, for the Democratic nomination to face Chuck Bolus, a former appointee to the seat, in the 2nd District. Democrat Finbarr Saunders and Republican Ruthie Kuhlman, both of whom we backed, won the right to meet in the general election for the vacant 4th District Seat A, and Ed Shouse took the Republican nomination to face Democrat Steve Drevik for the 4th District’s Seat B in August.
Richard Briggs, who was also our choice, won the 5th District seat up for election outright, as there is no Democrat running for that post. Democrat Kathy Bryant and Republican Brad Anders, also our picks, will contend in the general for the open seat in the 6th District, and Republican Dave C. Wright, whom we supported, won the open 8th District seat without August opposition. In the 9th District, our Republican choice, Tim Greene, lost to Mike Brown for the right to meet Democrat C. Vernon Rose in the general.
We also supported Phil Ballard, the Republican who will face Democrat Andrew Graybeal for Property Assessor in the August election, and Karen Carson, the county school board chairman, who won her seat back in the only contested school board race.
The national stage was set Tuesday for knock-down, drag-out battles for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations, with Sen. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama going head to head for the Dems, and a three-way tussle among Sen. McClain and former Boston Mayor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
All in all, it turned out to be a Super Tuesday for Knox County voters. We can’t wait to see how things develop in August for the county and in November for the nation.