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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Broyles term-limited? No. But ask her …

Really, all 2nd District Commissioner Amy Broyles wants is a strong female voice on Knox County Commission.

Broyles is one of a handful of commissioners who would have been on commission for eight years at the end of this term, but are eligible for another term.

She said Monday that eight years would be tantamount to two terms of four years, and by that logic, she and other commissioners have served two terms. By well-known rule around here, folks on Commission and elsewhere can only hold an office for two terms.

Thing is, Broyles and a couple other commissioners were appointed for the first term to finish a vacated term, way back from Black Wednesday fallout (here’s a primer from the fantastic NY Times writer Dan Barry on that day). In Broyles case, she got two years on a term. Then Knox County voters chose to narrow Commission down to 11 members, with staggered terms. When Broyles won her first elected term, after the appointed term expired, she won for a six-year position. The two extra years were added to her second term – her first elected term, however – to stagger the terms.

Keep in mind that this appointment, the reduction in commission size and the staggered terms all came from a voting public working under a “throw the bums out” mentality.

So she could run for office again. Because she hasn’t been elected twice to Commission. But she’s already been there for eight years, across two terms. At this point, Broyles isn’t sure if she’ll run for office again. She said she would like to step down, but wants a strong female voice on Commission.

“I have served eight years, which is technically two full terms, but I am not term-limited, so I do have the option of running again,” she said.

She is the only woman on the elected body, and in terms of diversity elsewhere, there’s just one African-American – 1st District Commissioner Sam McKenzie.

“I am trying hard to recruit among the district. At this point, my options are open,” she said. “

Asked if that means she’s looking for a qualified female to follow in her footsteps in the 2nd District, she said yes.

“We need more women, more African-Americans, more Hispanic people, more Asian Americans,” Broyles said. “The greater diversity you have in any group, the better decisions and actions come out of that group.”

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Notes from Amy Broyles about the 2nd District school board appointment

We reported this already (here’s a link), and Broyles sent out the following note on Sunday to follow-up in detail on how an appointment process would work.

A little bit of context to keep in mind, as well – this forum is for the public, but it’s commission who will be selecting the person for a three-month spot. This (I think) will be the last act of outgoing commissioners such as Tony Norman and Mike Hammond, so keep in mind that these are the folks who are being lobbied – and you can bet that they are being lobbied pretty hard by people who want the 2nd District – even for three months.

Another couple points – and I’m thinking out loud here:

- Three months is long enough to initiate and terminate a contract for an individual in the government process. And in September there will be new incoming school board members. Watch for those with anti-establishment/administration sentiments among the 2nd District applicants, and how that could play out on the school board.

Commissioners Sam McKenzie, left, and Amy Broyles.

Commissioners Sam McKenzie, left, and Amy Broyles.


– In a possibly-related note, commission is picking a chairman, and Brad Anders wants it, and so does Dave Wright. Broyles wants to be Vice Chair(wo)man in her last year on Commission before being term-limited*. The vote-counters who want Wright/Broyles or Anders/Broyles could be trading favors for getting in the person that Broyles may want in the 2nd. I’ve heard (unconfirmed) that Sam McKenzie is interested in the V.C. spot too. In a side note, Broyles and McKenzie are the only Democratic commissioners on the elected body.

- Anyone who takes the appointment for the 2nd District has a head start on the November special election for that seat. They’ll have three months of free campaigning on the school board, and the public backing of commission. Whether that individual says they won’t run for office (which Commission typically favors when making an appointment for a placeholder), could be irrelevant. Politicians will and typically do say anything to get into office.

- That last point is why covering local politics is both delightful and infuriating.

Here’s Broyles’ note from yesterday:

Dear Second District Residents,

This Thursday evening, August 14th, there will be a Public Forum at 6:00 pm in the auditorium of Gresham Middle School to introduce you to the candidates who have submitted resumes for the three month interim appointment to the Board of Education, representing our district. At this point, ten resumes have been submitted.

The Forum is being sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Knox County Education Association, and Beth Haynes of WBIR will be moderating. It will be professional and very informative. It is absolutely critical that as many residents as possible of the Second District attend.

The format is as follows:
Candidates will draw numbers for seating and question order. Beth Haynes will introduce them, providing a brief summary from their biographical information. Questions will follow a rotation, with 90 seconds for answers. A timer will keep them on track. Beginning questions will come from a League and KCEA committee, and subsequent ones will come from the audience. At the end, each will have two minutes for a closing statement. Keep in mind that this is a forum, not a debate, and is intended to inform the residents of the Second District, as well as any County Commissioners present, of their qualifications.

If you miss the Forum on the 14th, there will be another opportunity for you to hear from the candidates – the County Commission will be interviewing the applicants at 3:00 pm on Monday, August 18th, following our regularly scheduled work session, and the public is welcome to attend. However, only the Commissioners will be able to ask questions of the candidates at that time. We meet in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building, 400 Main Street.

I have also attached the resumes of the candidates to this email, so you may have as much information as possible as you consider the candidates, or if you are unable to attend either the Forum or the Commission interviews.

The appointment will be made the following Monday, August 25th, during the Commission’s regularly scheduled voting meeting at 2:00 pm. The appointee will represent the Second District until a new representative is elected in the Special Election on November 4th.

Between the Public Forum on the 14th and the appointment on the 25th, I respectfully request that you contact me, and/or your neighborhood/community leadership, if available, regarding your top choices for this appointment. I will be in close contact with neighborhood and community leadership to see if we can reach a consensus on the top candidates.

Please contact me by email at amy.broyles@knoxcounty.org, or by replying to this email, to express your preference(s), and include your neighborhood or community affiliation and your street address. ONLY INPUT FROM VERIFIABLE RESIDENTS OF THE SECOND DISTRICT WILL BE CONSIDERED.

This is a very important appointment, and the best outcome can only be achieved with maximum participation from residents of the Second District.

Please forward this email to as many of your neighbors as possible.

In service,
Amy Broyles

Here is a previous story on the process.

*cwg from MP says that she’s not term-limited. This is true. Broyles, however, considers herself to have served two terms on commission. Here’s cwg’s note on the 2nd District appointment.

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How early voting returns can show you who will win

If you want a good idea of how your candidate is doing before all polls are in, look for early voting returns tonight.

People are increasingly using early voting to get ahead of dealing with Election Day lines (which, in turn, makes it easy for day-of voters like myself), and in this election the number who vote early could be 50 percent or more. Thing is, we don’t know how much early voting comprises the overall balloting until all the results are counted.

Thaaaaaat said, you can get some info from early voting returns.

If a candidate has a runaway margin in early voting returns – say 2 to 1 – it would stand to reason they would retain the win once ballots are counted and posted from polling places. That said, an election day push for a candidate could gain ground lost for someone who was hit pretty hard in early voting.

If a candidates are closer, then that sets up some Election Day drama – and a headache for reporters. To quote a former colleague of mine: I don’t care who wins, as long as it’s a landslide.

Early voting results will come in after the last voter casts a ballot, shortly after 8 p.m. Most likely before 8:30 p.m.

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Under three hours left to vote – confident Briggs, and steady voting

Richard Briggs, as he told one of our reporters in the field and me on the phone, said he feels confident about his odds at unseating TN 7th District Sen. Stacey Campfield.

“Our last polling looked very good,” Briggs said. That poll was on the first day of early voting, he said.

Otherwise, he’s hit as many precincts as possible, and has two campaign workers at each of the 30 in the 7th District, which has stretches includes Farragut, Fountain City and the University of Tennessee.

Briggs said he’s bumped into both opponents – Campfield and Mike Alford – while going around today to polls.

And, win or lose, he and Campfield have discussed decorum once results come.

“You’re not going to have any poor sportsmanship,” Briggs said. “We both talked about how we’d like that to be done.”

Knox County’s Elections Administrator, Cliff Rodgers, said that he’s not heard of problems at polling locations, either.

“Just the usual craziness,” Rodgers said. “You may have an e-slate machine go down, and you’re going to have a few of them go out.”

But a triple-redundant vote counting method keeps the machines from compromising ballots, he said.

As for voting, he said that voting at polling places has been steady – from those places that he’s spoken with, anyway.

Weather has been good to polling places, too. Rain is a sure-fire way to keep people inside and away from polls, he observed.

Looks like there’s little chance for storms to come, though it might be a little soggy this weekend.

“Haven’t had time to look at the weather,” Rodgers said, “Hopefully, the thunder-boomers are holding off. If anything, it’s been a little hot.”

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More outside analysis of TN races – Lamar Alexander, DesJarlais

From the WaPo. Don’t believe the hype. There will be some Congress members about to go down. This doesn’t mean anything in the sweeping, national context:

As it happens, two or more incumbents could lose their primaries this week. And we could conceivably even see three or four lose, which would basically be unprecedented.

The confluence of these things could/will undoubtedly cause some folks to blow the dust off the old “anti-incumbent” narrative. Watch out incumbents, they will say.

Don’t listen to them. While there are plenty of incumbents fighting for their jobs this week, very few of their races say much of anything about the bigger picture for members of Congress.

Case in point: Reps. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) and Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.). Among all the incumbents this week, these two are probably the most likely to lose their primaries. But to call them unusual cases would be a disservice to the word “unusual.”

DesJarlais is running in his first primary since it was revealed in October 2012 that he engaged in sexual relationships with patients and co-workers at his medical practice. He urged one of them to have an abortion and also encouraged his ex-wife to have two abortions prior to their marriage. DesJarlais, of course, has run on an antiabortion rights platform.

And NYTimes, which followed Sen. Lamar Alexander around:

“As opposed to Senator Cochran, Lamar has been engaged in this race from go,” said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican.

Mr. Alexander, 74, began his political career 40 years ago with a failed bid for governor. Now, he is a former two-term governor and national education secretary who enjoys a deep relationship with many of his state’s voters. But his brand of center-right politics has made him vulnerable to a more ideologically driven candidate in a state where an earlier generation of moderate Republicans is being replaced by a mix of more conservative younger voters, new arrivals to the state and former Democrats.

Mr. Carr, 56, who has been attracting little notice from state and national conservatives for months, has finally begun to draw attention by criticizing Mr. Alexander for his vote last year on a comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally that the right deems an amnesty.

That issue has helped win Mr. Carr support from figures such as Laura Ingraham, a radio talk show host, and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska at a moment when the surge of Central American youths across the United States border has again elevated immigration in the public debate.

Mr. Alexander has responded by denouncing Mr. Obama for his handling of the crisis while making the case that the broader issue is best addressed with the sort of comprehensive legislation he backed last year.

Welp, here’s your national context too, further down in the article:

If both Mr. Alexander and Mr. Roberts win, it would be a significant victory for Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, who this year vowed to “crush” conservative challenges of incumbent senators.

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“Carpetbaggers” and outside $ in the Tenn. State Supreme Court retention elections

This, from NYTimes today, some analysis on the state supreme court retention elections. Check it out. This reminds me of what super-rich Koch brothers pulled off in N.C. when they pushed over a few races to the conservative-Republican-Tea Party side of things.:

In Tennessee, governors appoint Supreme Court justices with the assistance of a nominating commission. Those justices are subject to retention elections soon after they join the court, as well as public votes at the end of every eight-year term. Contests seldom include active campaigning and only once in Tennessee since 1994, when the system was expanded to apply to the Supreme Court, have voters forced a justice from the bench.

Critics of the three justices accuse them of limiting the rights of crime victims and antagonizing business.

Some of the complaints are linked to the court’s decision in 2006 to appoint Robert E. Cooper Jr., a Democrat, as state attorney general. In Tennessee, the court appoints the attorney general, who then serves for eight years. Critics of the justices argue that because the court selected Mr. Cooper, it bears some responsibility for his decisions, like one not to join a lawsuit challenging the federal health law. But the justices’ supporters note that the court has not issued an opinion in a case focused on the Affordable Care Act.

Justice Clark said the attacks on the justices rested on stretches in logic, as well as opinions that have been stripped of context. But she said she recognized the challenge of connecting with voters who know little about the court.

“The issues we talk about are not made-for-media issues,” she said after campaigning in Smithville, the seat of rural DeKalb County. “They are not 30-second sound-bite issues. They require a lot of discussions, sometimes arcane discussions.”

Mr. Ramsey’s office did not respond to interview requests, but one leading outside group defended its decision to participate in the election here.

Matt Walter, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has spent at least $196,000 to oppose the justices, said: “This is an issue that has percolated out of Tennessee and will be resolved by Tennessee. Our goal is simply to provide as much information as we possibly can.”

In addition to television ads, direct-mail pieces have also flooded Tennessee. One paid for by Mr. Walter’s group, which argued that the justices “are too liberal and do not share our Tennessee values,” landed recently in the Nashville mailbox of Lew Conner, a veteran donor to Republican campaigns in Tennessee who once sat on the State Court of Appeals. Mr. Conner said the literature had an effect that was the opposite of what was intended.

“I kind of look at it like they’re carpetbaggers,” Mr. Conner said of the outside groups opposing the sitting justices. “Why do they have to come in and tell us in Tennessee how to elect our judiciary?”

He added, “It’s the harbinger of perhaps the new American politics: being able to say and do anything and get away with it if you have the Yankee dollar, the almighty Yankee dollar.”

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