On elections, or, a ranty-rant

A few observations to help those who are watching elections ’round here, and other general scuttlebutt. This will verge on wonkishness, but it’s important to use the right terms to accurately describe what’s happening.

  • Opponents challenge incumbents. Not the other way around.
  • Incumbents seek reelection.
  • In an open race the candidates can challenge each other, but they’re really both running for one seat.
  • Generally speaking, the candidate polling behind the frontrunner demands debates. The person ahead really doesn’t benefit from debates and generally will want to protect his or her lead. Think of it in terms of football. If the play called on the field is a touchdown, and you’re pretty sure your receiver got both feet down before the sideline (or one, if we’re talking Vols ball) then you don’t want to see your opponent’s coach toss in a red flag for a review. A debate is sort of like a review in that situation.

And before you’re totally lulled to sleep, here’s a tiny rant on getting it first vs. getting it right. I sent a kind of cryptic tweet yesterday …


Let me further clarify. There seems to be a mad rush by media folks to get things posted first. And our hungry audience wants things fast, in as few words as possible.

That’s part of the job. No big deal. The first and highest mission, however, is accuracy. If we cannot hold ourselves accountable – and notify the public when we’re wrong – how can that public expect that we will hold those we cover accountable, and deliver that information with fairness and no bias?

Now, I understand that there are people out there with obvious agendas, and columnists opine, and bloggers pontificate (and the rest of us scruffy reporter types are just bashing out copy as fast as we can), so it’s not always clear on who is doing what. But be careful, dear reader, and avoid echo chambers.

You all deserve better.

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Dems want debate(s) in 7th District

This release appeared in my inbox yesterday, about Democratic candidate Cheri Siler looking for three debates with Republican Richard Briggs.

Cheri Siler is running an energetic and positive campaign and

Cheri Siler

Cheri Siler

we’re proud of her work, impressed by her enthusiasm, and dedicated to her success.  We want voters to have the same head to head comparison of the candidates.

Multiple debates, preferably televised, are the best way to ensure voters see a direct and meaningful candidate comparison.  Cheri Siler has offered to do three debates.  Briggs has responded with a vague commitment to maybe one.

Some context:

Folks in the Briggs campaign have said they’re not against a forum or debate, but there have to be some standards. For one, they’re not interested in it being held by student

Richard Briggs

Richard Briggs

groups. As for location, that appears to be undecided, but there are options around UT.

Democrats say they’ve only gotten radio silence from Briggs’ camp, and I’m unsure who has reached out to whom and in what abundance.

The Democrats gave us a heads-up about this issue last week, when they went to a college Republican meeting at UT to speak with Briggs directly. It doesn’t seem that much has come from that interaction, if Democrats are speaking through press releases. Here’s the full release:

Because of the unusual nature of Stacey Campfield’s failed re-election campaign, an inordinate amount of attention was spent in the primary election deciphering what actually is primary residence of Republican candidate Rick Briggs, and whether his signed validation of his address is accurate. Only a court can address definitively whether such signed campaign documents are truthful and complete. We in the Democratic Party are more interested in the policy differences between Briggs and Democratic nominee Cheri Siler.

Cheri Siler is running an energetic and positive campaign and we’re proud of her work, impressed by her enthusiasm, and dedicated to her success. We want voters to have the same head to head comparison of the candidates.

Multiple debates, preferably televised, are the best way to ensure voters see a direct and meaningful candidate comparison. Cheri Siler has offered to do three debates. Briggs has responded with a vague commitment to maybe one.

Those who cover election campaigns and those who report on candidates should be unsatisfied with the Briggs non-answer. No candidate should be allowed to skirt thoughtful inquiry and comparison, and merely attempt to coast on perceived partisan advantage and large amounts of campaign cash. We urge reporters to keep asking Briggs about debates until he makes a firm commitment to multiple debates. Only that will serve the public interest of an informed electorate.

I’m betting there will be one forum, moderated, with questions, a rebuttal time and a response to that.

Also, keep in mind that this a very Republican district, the 7th. Nonetheless, this is a bona fide election with two legitimate candidates. And they’re both pretty nice folks, respectively.

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Public docs on Knox Criminal Court Clerk departures, and Leuthold

We and others have reported about the departure of several employees in the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk’s Office.



There’s a little more info in these that you wonks out there may care to see.

Also, here’s the hiring information for Craig Leuthold, who left as interim trustee when Ed Shouse moved over from Commission to the fee office. Leuthold took a spot under Phil Ballard, the county’s property assessor, where he was working previously. Here’s that info:


He’s taking quite a pay cut from the trustee gig, but he was making similar money in the property assessor’s office before. Couple ways to look at this move:

  • A sweet government gig for a former elected official and son of a well-known political figure in the county, Frank Leuthold.
  • A job for someone who knows a significant amount about the operations and business of the county to interface with the public and media. Here’s his resume from the web site for his run for trustee.

Either way, Leuthold is sticking around in/near the periphery of Knox County politics for a while longer. Make of it what you will.

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Update: Chess in the Park on … Saturday

Update: Chess in the Park on Sunday Saturday

This sounds cool. From a news release:

Individuals interested in learning and playing the game of chess, can participate Saturday, September 6, 2014, from 9:00 am till 2:00 pm at 504 Market Street ( Krutch Park) in downtown Knoxville, TN. This is the first annual Chess in the Park, sponsored by the City of Knoxville Special Events, an event for non scholastic chess players. Don’t miss the opportunity to observe, learn, and play your hand at chess. There will be workshops, demonstrations, and give aways to families participating. Are you a player looking for a pick up game or a parent that wants your child to develop confidence, analytical skills or how to get a chess club started at your school? Again you won’t want to miss this free opportunity to ask expert chess instructors and players what it takes to excell in chess and have loads of fun playing your friends and colleagues.

For more information contact:
Michael O. Moore

In completely unrelated news, this is how workflow can come to a screeching halt. My internal dialogue went something like while reading that release: “Chess, now that sounds cool. Let’s throw it up on the blog. When was the last time I played chess? Oh yeah, on vacation, when I mixed up the king and the queen. Dummy. I should bone up. Wonder if there’s a good chess app for my phone? I don’t really play Angry Birds anymore.” After all that I end up at the itunes store, looking up chess apps and about to click on some song from Niki Minaj (who I don’t even listen to – not my first choice, anyway), never having downloaded any apps. At least the blog got posted.

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That county surplus – what’s happening with it?

So the county has some extra scratch hanging around after the 2013-14 fiscal year wrapped up, nearly $3 million.

And we got a few items into the main story earlier today, but here’s the full list:

  • Circuit Court Clerk $10,237 – This request is for expenses with the relocation of IV-D Child Support moving to Division Street.
  • Senior Picnic $5,522 – This request is for additional supplies.
  • Health Department $55,000 – This request is for dental office upgrades, and $15,000 for the indigent care program.
  • Equipment $100,000 – This request is for KRONOS Employee Time Clock Systems for numerous County Departments.
  • Non-Departmental $1,916,640 – This request is for the health insurance rebate, elected officials office furniture, special events through the County, for a behavioral risk assessment for all County employees for insurance related purposes, and the renovations to the Ben Atchley Nursing Home parking lot.
  • Law Department $18,000 – This request is for tablets for the office.
  • Attorney General $92,268 – This request is for the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System adjustment increase.
  • Sheriff’s Department $88,000 – This request is for DNA testing; additional building expenses for the New Narcotics office, and for Taser video cameras for patrol cars.
  • Engineering and Public Works $1,162,803– This request is for compliance with EPA requirements, foreclosed bonds, and facility renovations.
  • Defined Service Contract $50,000 – This request is for the Beck Cultural Center.

We’ll be talking with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett about the extra money later today, so expect more info on this later. The spending plan comes from budget requests that weren’t honored in the 2014-15 budget. And, according to county communication people, the bonus will extend to all employees – Sheriff’s Office employees included.

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An historic win: 18th district and Martin Daniel

Victor Ashe has a few salient points about Martin Daniel’s win over incumbent Steve Hall earlier this month for a state house seat in the General Assembly. Reprinted, from the Shopper:


Martin Daniel

First, Daniel invested $85,000 of his own money into his campaign, which allowed him to do the mailings, yard signs and phone calls needed to win.

This money only matched what Hall had accumulated in PAC donations over four years.

Second, Daniel committed his personal time going door to door for more than 60 consecutive days, becoming known to voters during the hot summer.

Hall had others going door to door for him.

Third, Hall did not realize the aggressive force coming onto the field against him until early voting was well underway. He was caught flat-footed.

Fourth, Hall handed Daniel three issues that only Hall could have created and caused voters to abandon Hall.

Those issues included legislation to sell Lakeshore Park, which is the most used park in the city.

Hall also sponsored legislation to allow Tennova to build a high-rise hospital on Middlebrook Pike without checking with the neighborhood as to their views while accepting significant campaign donations from the Tennova PAC.

Hall then endorsed Stacey Campfield for state senate on TV when Campfield was politically toxic.

Fifth, the two appearances Hall and Daniel made together on TV assisted Daniel, whose performance was more polished and informed while Hall was clearly on the defensive and visibly distressed in front of the camera.

Sixth, the margin of victory for Daniel came from the Rocky Hill county precinct and Deane Hill Recreation city ward.

Ashe goes on to do a little finger-wagging and hand out advice to pols, which is, basically: Make sure the legislation you introduce actually reflects your constituency.

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Observations from 2nd District forum

A forum for the 2nd District school board seat was held last night up in Fountain City. Here are a couple observations from the evening:

  • No clear winner emerged. Yeah, forums aren’t exactly set up to declare winners, but usually one can tell who pulls ahead. Last night, most of the folks who spoke looked liked they belonged up there.
  • Not many members of the public came. Probably about 50 people, most of them with a direct reason to be there, were present. Nearly all of Knox County Commission was there, and a few incoming commissioners too. Counting them, the applicants and the staff who pulled the forum off and you’re pretty close to 20 folks already.
  • Here’s your group that showed up for the 2nd District: Juanita Cannon, a retired Knox County Schools teacher and principal; Charlotte K. Dorsey, retired Knox County Schools administrator; John N. Fugate, vice president with Commercial Bank in Fountain City; Diana Ray, former community development manager with the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians; Jennifer Searle, board member with Knox County Schools Clothing Center PTA and volunteer; Rick Staples, a former Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputy who oversaw inmate rehabilitation programs.
  • Ray and Searle both have children in public schools. Staples ran for office against Nick Della Volpe for city council last year – and nearly won. Dorsey and Cannon both used to work in Knox County Schools.
  • All of them said they weren’t interested in running for the November election, with the exception being Staples, who was undecided.
  • Generally, Fugate and Ray appeared supportive of charter schools or need more information about how they are working (it’s too soon to tell), Cannon and Doresey said they robbed resources from public schools Searle, but also advised a watch-and-see approach, and Staples said he would’ve voted against Emerald Academy.
  • Some folks out in the rumorsphere are saying that pro-McIntyre and anti-McIntyre camps have put up applicants for the 2nd District seat. The veracity of those rumors has not been substantiated.
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