commentary (2008-07)

Feelinâ' Super

Commentary

Knox County voters finally take back their government

by Matt Edens

Two years after the abortive â“Take Back Our Governmentâ” rally at the Expo Center formerly known as the Clinton Highway Loweâ’s, Knox Countyâ’s voters seem well on their way to doing just that. The turnout on â“Super Tuesdayâ” was tremendous. And itâ’s tough to say what was the bigger draw: the chance to help choose a presidential candidate or the opportunity to throw out some of the doofusses who have made Knox County government so dysfunctional that even the New York Times has taken notice.

Granted, a good number of them had already been thrown out, courtesy of the courts. And we may be in for a repeat of the pitiful process that put them there to begin with, as the now shorthanded Commission contemplates appointing placeholders to keep the seats warm until the general election. Still, I suspect a fair number of voters relished showing Richard Cate and Lee Tramel the door. And they didnâ’t stop there, either. Law Director John Owings also lost his shot at a second term. And, while his Commission seat wasnâ’t on the block, Chairman Scott â“Scoobieâ” Moore, ringmaster of the appointment circus, was crushed in his bid to become Knox County Clerk.

Since then, in a rare moment of discretion, Moore has resigned his position as chair, perhaps hoping the whole thing will blow over by the time his seat on Commission does come up for reelection. Maybe it will, but the fact that Moore lost his home precinct in Halls doesnâ’t bode well. In the interim, the affable Tank Strickland will take over as chair, meaning the tight-lipped 1st District rep might actually be forced to say something in a meeting.

Chuck Bolus, the Commission appointee whose early swearing-in set off all the ruckus, is still in the running, ironically. Unopposed in the Republican primary, he faces off against Democratic winner Amy Broyles in the upcoming general. Hereâ’s hoping, however, that her opponent Courtney Piper isnâ’t discouraged from running for another office in the future. An energetic and intelligent young lady whom I had the privilege of serving with on the cityâ’s Better Building Board, Piper has promise, even if her campaign suffered a few missteps. A few more years of seasoning and sheâ’ll make a fine public servant.

Curiously, Piper was one of the few losing candidates who enjoyed the support of former city mayor Victor Ashe. Ruthie Kuhlman, onetime Deputy Mayor, and former City Councilman and staunch Ashe ally Ed Shouse both sailed to easy victories, trouncing former appointees Cate and Trammel. Sam Mackenzie, Victorâ’s go-to guy during the sad affair of filling Danny Mayfieldâ’s vacant City Council seat, likewise coasted to victory, the designated heir apparent of the machine that dominates East Knoxville politics. Longshot Cynthia Stancil, from my old home turf of Parkridge, did poll almost 14 percent, a respectable showing considering the racial dynamics of the first district. Like Piper, I encourage her to keep at it, perhaps following the lead of Chris Woodhull and possibly put another inner-city resident in one of City Councilâ’s at-large seats.

While itâ’s tough for a white woman to gain traction in East Knoxville, an African-American man did carry West Knoxvilleâ’s presidential primary, at least on the Democratic side. Whether that represented true support or, thanks to Tennesseeâ’s open primaries, a substantial number of â“anyone but Clintonâ” crossovers, is tough to say. And Iâ’m not sure whatâ’s more shocking, that Hillary won in relatively rural North, East, and South Knox County or that there are any Democrats in those dyed-in-the-wool Republican districts?

As surprising as Obamaâ’s West Knoxville showing was, McCainâ’s rout of Huckabee in the same real estate ranks right up there, too. Yes, the African-American candidate won and the evangelical lost in the land of upscale megachurches; what this bodes for the upcoming presidential race, Iâ’m not so sure. But it was a real eye-opener with regard to West Knoxville.

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