Judge Races Producing Angst?

Knoxville lawyers might call it the Year of Living Dangerously.

Judges have eight year terms, which provides stability in the local legal community. But this year the ones who haven't retired are up for re-election. A fruit-basket turnover and new faces on the bench would shake up the status quo. It's pretty much the only topic of conversation when attorneys get together these days.

The retirement of Circuit Judge Dale Workman is of most interest in the May primary. The attorneys we have talked with do not want Ray Jenkins, a recent party chair. They don't feel he has enough courtroom experience. But he is a nice fellow, and, as the son of a former judge, he has a familiar name in local politics. Attorney Billy Stokes has been the early favorite of the local bar, though Kristi Davis has been gathering support as well. It will be the race to watch in the primary.

But the real anxiety is the county general election on Aug. 7. Democrats Chancellor Darryl Fansler and Circuit Judge Harold Wimberly are widely respected and faves of local attorneys. But both have Republican opponents on a ballot with Republicans Gov. Bill Haslam and County Mayor Tim Burchett. A Republican sweep might knock off the two Democratic incumbents. Fansler will be opposed by Eddie Pridemore Jr. and Wimberly by Bill Ailor.

Democrats are also hoping to elect Leland Price, a prosecutor, who is running as a Democrat for criminal court judge. He will face Republican Scott Green, since neither has an opponent in the primary.