When City Councilman Charlie Thomas was appointed to fill the rest of Bob Becker’s term representing the city’s 5th District earlier this year, he said he would not make himself a candidate for re-election. But that, he says, was on the assumption that there would be an actual competitive race for the seat. There was good reason to expect so: Thomas was one of six people who put themselves forward for the short-term appointment. But June’s filing deadline came and went with just one candidate, Mark Campen, declared for the 5th District seat. That’s why, Thomas says, he decided to reverse course this week and mount a write-in campaign to hold onto his position.
Normally a write-in candidate, even an incumbent, would be at a big disadvantage. But because of the way Council races work, if Thomas manages to get at least 25 write-in votes in the Sept. 27 primary—which is open only to 5th District voters—his name will then go on the ballot for the citywide general election in November. It means Campen, who had been expecting a smooth ride to Council, will suddenly have to mount a real campaign. He has already criticized Thomas for going back on his word, which may resonate with voters. On the other hand, some 5th District residents may be happy that issues of particular interest to their North Knoxville neighborhoods will get a little more lip service than they would have otherwise. A one-man race doesn’t generate a lot of discussion.