Ear to the Ground: Advice and Counsel

Advice and Counsel

Thomas Baer, who was narrowly defeated in a race for state representative last week, lost his son 20 years ago. He was killed at a party on the University of Tennessee campus. The Baer family spent years publicizing campus safety, and their efforts led to legislation improving security and crime statistic reporting on campuses.

Baer has been talking with the Berry family at least once a quarter since they lost their daughter Johnia in 2004. She was killed in her West Knox County apartment. Like Baer, the Berry family wanted to keep their daughter's death before the public, in their case to keep public pressure on to solve the crime. They consulted on strategy while Baer also talked with them about how to cope with grief.

The Berry family's efforts led to an improvement in the state crime lab—legislation provided the money to speed up processing of DNA evidence.

Baer notes the longer a family has to re-live a tragedy to keep it before the public, the longer it takes for the family to move on with life. He calls it a terrible choice for families to have to make.

Here Comes the Judge

With the election of Judge Bob McGee to the Criminal Court bench, it appears a vacant Sessions Judgeship may either be on the ballot in November or appointed by County Commission (a decision should be announced this week).

Party conventions will pick a candidate for an empty Criminal Court Clerk job and could also nominate a judge candidate. If not nominated by the party, candidates are free to run as independents for either seat.

Chad Tindell, who lost a race for Sessions Judge in February, is contacting friends to gauge support and out-going Law Director John Owings is another Republican considering a bid. On the Democratic side, Ursula Bailey, who also lost an earlier race, is sounding out support. Knoxville Vice Mayor Mark Brown is being pushed by some Democrats who note there is no black judge on the bench in Knoxville. Bailey is also black.

Ken Irvine, who was appointed to the Criminal Court Judgeship by Gov. Phil Bredesen, had an uphill climb when he took office. The longtime illness and absenteeism of the late Judge Ray Jenkins left a backlog of cases. Irvine worked long hours on catching up the docket, and legal sources say he had virtually no time to campaign until late into the election process. When he ran against Jenkins last year, Irvine refused to go negative on Jenkins' illness and lost the race. Jenkins had to leave the bench shortly after re-election and died soon thereafter.

Get Out and Vote

There was one day during early voting when the total vote exceeded the corresponding day two years ago—that was the Friday before early voting ended on Saturday. Party officials aren't sure if there is a connection, but popular state Sen. Tim Burchett's robo calls to the Republican faithful occurred the night before.

Burchett is expected to run for County Mayor in 2010, so expect another call between now and then.

Get a Loan

The Politico blog has asked all the senators to provide them with information about their mortgages and most of them have complied. Tennessee's Sen. Bob Corker, a multi-millionaire developer before running for office, said he doesn't have any mortgages. Sen. Lamar Alexander's staff told the blog he has a mortgage with First Tennessee. The Senate is often referred to as a Millionaire's Club. The Politico observes that a large percentage of the senators have no mortgage at all.