So which group of voters will show up for the election next week?
In February there was a huge turnout and anyone who looked like an incumbent and had an opponent lost. In the August county election, the turnout was smaller and the traditional Republican ticket swept most of the offices.
There are charter amendments on the ballot Tuesday to drastically restructure county government and the turnout may tell the tale. In February’s election, the voters expressed their anger at the shenanigans surrounding county government over the past year. If the voters decide these charter changes are opportunities to punish county politicians, amendments three and four may pass. I think it will take a large turnout of angry voters to really upset the status quo. It is no coincidence that the charter-amendment effort was launched following the February tsunami with supporters hoping to tap into the winds of change.
One amendment reduces County Commission from 19 to 11 members. Another allows the mayor to appoint four offices now elected.
The February primary had Barack Obama and John McCain on the ballot, which may have helped turnout. They are on the ballot again Tuesday, so it could help boost the vote. But there are a lot fewer local elections on the ballot.
The August county election demonstrated that the local Republican Party got its act back together, got its voters to the polls, and regained control of county government. The local Republican Party has been taking an active role in opposing the charter amendments. The Republican clubs have been urged to get out and vote against them.
The pro-charter change people got a boost in recent weeks when former Knox County Commission Chair Scott Moore was removed from office as the result of a Herb Moncier ouster suit. The trial brought back all the stories about Black Wednesday and became a full-blown media reminder of the day the Sunshine Law was violated wholesale in the appointment of eight commissioners and four county wide officeholders.
It was not helpful to those wanting to preserve the status quo.
But the McCain effort in Knox County has been formidable, under the experienced leadership of Councilman Joe Bailey, who got huge margins for George Bush in the past two elections. If the conservative rank-and-file Republicans get to the polls in large numbers, it may be enough to offset revolution-minded voters who want charter changes.
On the Knox County ballot it seems safe to assume that McCain, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Congressman Jimmy Duncan, state Sen. Jamie Woodson, and the state House delegation will manage to pull out victories. About the only really contested race in this group is veteran state Rep. Bill Dunn being opposed by Democrat Barbara Nicodemus.
The conservative Republican turnout would seem to be the kind of voter that re-elected the term-limited courthouse crowd for four elections before the court intervened.
The criminal court clerk job is on the ballot. Incumbent Joy McCroskey should benefit from being nestled among a long list of popular Republican officeholders. Several prominent Democrats decided not to run for the office, given the results of the August county election. The Democrats settled on Kathy Bryant as their candidate, a little-known and under-funded candidate who lost her commission race in August.
The most interesting local race may be the only County Commission seat up. Phil Ballard won the property assessor’s post in August and his vacant 8th District Commission seat is being sought by three challengers. The 8th District is the rural and relatively sparsely populated east end of the county.
Conventional wisdom, if there is such a thing in Knox County, is that there will be a good McCain turnout, incumbents will win and Republicans will pick up vacant seats.
These voters will most likely vote against the charter amendments to restructure county government. But don’t bet your subprime mortgage on it.