ear (2008-04)

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Ear to the Ground

City Ties Favored

The Public Trust PAC, headed by former Sen. Ben Atchley and former County Executive Tommy Schumpert, issued endorsements in County Commission races last week with a decidedly city flavor.

The endorsements included Brian Anders, a city policeman, Ruthie Kuhlman, a former city staffer, Ed Shouse, a former City Councilman, Sam McKenzie, a city appointee to the KUB board, and Finbarr Saunders, who has been a city representative on the Historic Zoning Commission. Thatâ’s five out of nine of the Commission endorsements with some tie to Knoxville government.

An unendorsed candidate sees this as an anti-county bias and possibly picking people sympathetic to metro government. A member of the PAC said there was no hidden agenda and no one was asked any questions about their views on metro government. The Public Trust PAC held candidate interviews in private and has not posted the questions and answers from the candidates for public viewing.

The group looked for people who were â“seriousâ” candidates, able to articulate their views, and the selections were not unanimous among PAC members, one of them said.

Bitter Battle

The 2nd District of County Commission, located in north Knoxville, has one of the most spirited Democratic primaries this election season. Amy Broyles and Cortney Piper are battling it out block by block.

Some of Piperâ’s supporters were irked last week when she sent out a flyer attacking Broyles for running as an independent in 2006 against incumbent Democrat Billy Tindell and â“disenfranchisingâ” voters by getting the early-voting station kicked out of Knoxville Center mall. Broyles and other dissident candidates on the so-called Orange ballot slate campaigned at the early-voting site and the turmoil resulted in an attorney for the mall asking that the polling place be moved.

It is now located at East Towne Crossing Shopping Center.

Some Democrats are worried that the acrimony is splitting the Democratic Party and may weaken the eventual winner against Republican Chuck Bolus in the general election. At this point it would seem hard for the two factions to patch things up and support a winning candidate.

But Whoâ’s Next?

Attorneys pay a lot of attention to judgeship races, they give money to campaigns, they sometimes issue â“ratings,â” and they are influential in â“getting the talk right.â” An active local attorney says the group is in a quandary in the race between Democrat Ken Irvine, who holds the Criminal Court judgeship seat by appointment, and the challenger, Republican Sessions Judge Bobby McGee.

McGee is considered a good judge who would do well moving up to the Criminal Court position, but should he be elected it would be up to County Commission to appoint a replacement. Some attorneys are worried Commission might appoint a person to Sessions Court with a strong political background but with little talent for being a judge. In other words, a political hack. Irvine ran against Criminal Court Judge Ray Lee Jenkins in 2006, but lost. Jenkins was in poor health and had to leave office last year and eventually died. Irvine was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen, also a Democrat.

McGee, as the Republican candidate, would normally have the advantage in a countywide race. But that isnâ’t always the case: the two other incumbent Criminal Court judges are Democrats. The judge selection will come in the August general election.

Bug in Our Ear

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