Mystery Campaign Postcard May Violate Law

Cliff Rodgers, administrator of the Knox County Election Commission, says a postcard sent out sometime late last week with pictures of four local candidates may violate election laws. He has forwarded it to District Attorney General Randy Nichols. "That's how I routinely handle that sort of thing when it appears the law was in fact violated," Rodgers says. The card shows photos of state Senate candidate Becky Duncan Massey, city mayoral candidate Mark Padgett, and City Council candidates Marshall Stair and George Wallace. They are identified as "The Next Generation of Leadership." What is not identified on either front or back is who paid for and sent the postcard. All four candidates and/or their campaigns deny knowing anything about it. The photographs appear to have been copied from their campaign websites or Facebook pages.

"It should have some sort of ‘paid for by' statement on there, as to who published that, whether the candidates endorsed it or did not," Rodgers says. Even if the card was produced by a private citizen, it would have to be acknowledged as an in-kind contribution by the candidates. But none of them know whom to acknowledge. And the apparent attempt to group the four candidates into a slate bothers some of them. None of the candidates have endorsed each other. "I have no idea who put the mailer out, and I am certainly not running as a part of any organized slate," Stair says. "I am busy running my own race and wish all other candidates the best of luck." Speculation immediately revolved around Padgett or his supporters, since he would appear to have the most to gain from association with the other three: He has been reaching out to Republicans, particularly of the West Knoxville variety, many of whom are supporting Massey, Wallace, and Stair. But Laura Braden, Padgett's campaign spokeswoman, said in an e-mail on Monday, "We start[ed] receiving calls about it today but haven't IDed the source yet." Given the difficulty of tracking mass mailings, there's a good chance the postcard's funders will not be uncovered. And given the weeks to go before the Sept. 27 primary and the Nov. 8 general election, there's a good chance the campaign shenanigans have just begun.