County General Election
County Clerk: Foster Arnett
Former clerk Mike Padgett, who ran the office for 21 years, is clearly beloved by his old employees. Still, it’s hard to dismiss the modernization and efficiencies incumbent Foster Arnett has put in place, which is why he gets our endorsement.
Trustee: No Endorsement
Both Ed Shouse, the Republican in the race, and Jim Berrier, the Democrat, have the financial knowledge to run this office. Both seem like good guys with good management skills. Either way you vote, Knox County can’t lose.
Chancellor, Division II: Daryl Fansler
Vote a straight Republican ballot all you want—hell, vote for Stacey Campfield—but whatever you do, do not vote for the Republican candidate in this particular race. Clarence Pridemore might be a decent guy, and he might be a decent lawyer—we really have no idea since he wouldn’t agree to an interview, either with us or with any other media outlet in town. But with less than four years of legal experience, Pridemore would not be a decent judge, and most certainly would not be a decent judge in the most complicated court in town. Incumbent Chancellor Daryl Fansler, however, is widely respected in the legal community—if he weren’t, there’d be a better candidate than Pridemore running against him. Fansler’s had 16 years on the bench. For all of our sakes, in case you one day end up in that courtroom, please put party politics aside and give him another eight years.
Circuit Court, Division II: Harold Wimberly
Wimberly’s been on the bench 27 years, longer than anyone else in his position in the history of Knox County. Experience doesn’t always matter—we know that. But in this case, it does. Judges who have a deeper understanding of the law are better judges, period. So if Wimberly wants to serve another eight years, we, as a community, should be grateful for that service and re-elect him, instead of voting for his inexperienced opponent, lawyer Bill Ailor, solely because he’s a Republican.
Circuit Court, Division IV: Daniel Kidd
We have no doubt that Greg McMillan has the brains and the experience to be a good judge. But Daniel Kidd is a better choice to run this particular court. The 4th Circuit needs a major overhaul, and Kidd has more specifics—and better ones—to change the way the divorces and orders of protection are dealt with in Knox County.
Criminal Court, Division III: Scott Green
Honestly, this was the hardest decision we made. Leland Price is a great prosecutor and a smart guy with an impressive background, and we think that Price and Scott Green would both be excellent judges. However, Price’s advocacy to change state laws based on one nightmarish case and his proposal to drug-test judges leave us with questions about what his impartiality might be like on the bench. It’s this fear—that Price might let his obvious sympathies for the families of victims prevent certain defendants from getting a fair trial or sentencing—that leads us to endorse Green, who has worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. We think Green’s experience on both sides of the courtroom will serve him well on the bench. And we think his commitment to justice is impressive, as he successfully saved his court-appointed client from death row in the Christian/Newsom case, despite his own personal revulsion. That’s what Knox County needs in a Criminal Court judge—someone who will ensure that there will always be a presumption of innocence and that every person gets a fair trial. We think Scott Green can do that.
General Sessions Court, Division IV: Patricia Hall Long
Although George Underwood would make history as the county’s first black judge, we think that Patricia Hall Long’s six years of experience on the bench give her an edge that Underwood just can’t match. We also hope her plans to modernize her courtroom, working with incoming Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond, will set a positive example for other courts to follow.
Board of Education, District 1: Marshall Walker
We aren’t sold on Marshall Walker, but we are sold on the idea that incumbent board member Gloria Deathridge hasn’t done a particularly good job representing her district. Walker has worked in the schools and seems to be a passionate advocate for kids. Hopefully, if he’s elected, he’ll put more time into the job than he has in campaigning.
Board of Education, District 6: Terry Hill
Terry Hill wasn’t our first choice in this race, and we still have concerns about her lack of interest in boundaries between church and state. However, Hill is clearly a much better candidate than PTA president Sandra Rowcliffe. Hill worked in the school system for years and understands the ins and outs of staff concerns and administration concerns. We are highly doubtful that she will be a consistent anti-McIntyre vote, as many of her supporters think, but there’s no doubt she’ll bring more thoughtfulness to the board than her opponent.
Republican State Primary Election
Senate, District 7: ABC (Anyone But Campfield)
We aren’t advocating that you liberals cross over and vote in the Republican primary for Richard Briggs. We’re not discouraging it, mind you, but we totally understand if you don’t want to cast your vote for an anti-abortion, pro-Chamber candidate. But we are advocating that if you are considering crossing over to vote for state Sen. Stacey Campfield because you think Democrat Cheri Siler has a better chance to beat him in November, don’t. Just don’t vote for anyone in this race, and help Siler campaign all fall, okay? There are so many reasons why no one of any political stripe should vote for Campfield that we won’t even bother to list them here. But here’s one we haven’t mentioned: If you have any love for this paper, vote him out of office so we don’t have to report on his nonsense for another four years. It’s soul-crushing—really, it is.
House, District 13: Eddie Smith
Obviously, Gloria Johnson is our gal, but if she somehow loses in November, we guess we’d prefer to see Eddie Smith in the House than Jason Emert, who doesn’t seem to have any real qualifications for office at all. But we’d much rather Gloria not lose.
House, District 18: Martin Daniel
Martin Daniel has put up billboards that say, “We can do better!” We think he’s right. Rep. Steve Hall is one of Campfield’s best friends—that alone should be reason to vote against him. But if you want another reason, try this one: Hall, along with Campfield, introduced legislation to sell off Lakeshore Park to developers. (Never mind that the park isn’t in either one of their districts.) If you think money is more important than public parks, then Hall’s your guy. Otherwise, vote for Daniel.
State Judicial Retention Elections
Court of Appeals: Retain All
Court of Criminal Appeals: Retain All
Supreme Court: Retain All
There is no good overall reason not to vote to retain every single judge up for retention on the ballot. This is not to say that you, personally, might not have a reason—you might have had a bad outcome in your case upon appeal. So, yeah, sure, vote against retention for one judge because you don’t like him or her. But whatever you do, don’t buy into this political blather from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and his cronies about how three of the Supreme Court justices—Chief Justice Gary Wade, Connie Clark, and Sharon Lee—need to be replaced because they’re “too liberal.”
Look, this is Tennessee. No one gets appointed to the state Supreme Court, even by a Democratic governor like Phil Bredesen, if they are flaming leftists. Sure, some of them donated to Democratic causes and candidates back when they were lawyers, but that’s their legal right as citizens. And none have donated since their appointment to the bench.
Ramsey wants to replace the justices because he doesn’t like the attorney general they appointed, Bob Cooper—who was appointed in 2006, by the way, two years before Barack Obama was even elected president. Ramsey thinks if he can get one, or two, or all three of them gone, the new court will appoint a conservative AG who will be more willing to waste taxpayer money filing lawsuits that other states have already filed. Oh, and if an amendment to the state constitution passes in November, the Legislature has to approve any appointees to state courts. As that body isn’t exactly full of rational people, no telling who will end up on the bench if any of the three get bumped off.
So, yes, you should vote to retain all the judges on the ballot, including Wade, Clark, and Lee. And you should do this not just because they aren’t liberal to begin with, and not just because whoever replaces them might be worse, and not even because Ramsey’s fight is mostly funded by interests outside the state, including the Koch Brothers. No, you should vote to retain because if one justice loses his or her seat, this is just the beginning. If Ramsey’s campaign is successful this year, you can bet that next time it will be directed at every single judge in any state court who might ever make a ruling based on the law itself and not what Ramsey and other tea partiers wish the law was. Let the judiciary remain a check and a balance: Vote to retain.