Knox County Democrats have had very little response to Republicans recruiting city council candidates willing to pledge their loyalty to Donald Trump and their undying hatred of facemasks, vaccines and Anthony Fauci.
But Matt Shears, chair of the Knox County Democratic Party, seems to be running out of patience.
“City elections are nonpartisan for a reason,” he said. “If the Knox GOP wants to inject their right-wing partisanship into non-partisan races, it will not end well for them. Their policies, agenda and rhetoric are completely out of sync with city voters – and KCDP is happy to point that out. These radical right-wing, anti-LGBT, anti-public health candidates do not understand the city.”
GOP leaders probably don’t put much stock in Matt Shears’ pronouncements, but they might want to take a cue from the most popular Republican in Knox County and rethink their plans:
Not only has Tim Burchett never lost a race – he’s never even had a close one, and he has run for nine offices in 18 elections (counting primaries). His signature Carhartt, fist bumps and quick-draw quips guarantee him a warm reception almost anywhere he goes, and (sorry Dems) the District 2 Congressional seat is his as long as he wants it. No Democrat has ever been elected here.
Don’t overlook the word “almost.” There may be a neighborhood or three inside the city limits where Burchett’s welcome wouldn’t be quite as warm as those he enjoys out in the ’burbs. Would folks be polite? Probably. Would their welcome be sincere? Probably not. He might face some challenging questions about his loyalty to Trump.
But let’s not kid ourselves; it’s not going to happen. Although he’s famous for his tireless door knocking, he spends his shoe leather in places where he can do himself the most good. And Burchett will not be going door-to-door in Fourth & Gill. Time is a precious commodity and he knows he’d be wasting it there. And contrary to what some of his opposition like to think, Tim Burchett is not a dumbass. If you are a Democratic super-voter living in an area where many of your neighbors hold similar views, you won’t see him on your doorstep.
He is more aware than anyone that his two-time Democratic opponent (Renee Hoyos) thrashed him inside Knoxville’s city limits, rolling up about 58 percent of the vote in 2018 and 2020. It’s difficult to get exact numbers because some precincts are split city/county, and although Hoyos underperformed Joe Biden by one or two percentage points last fall, she won the city-only vote handily. GOP leaders might want to take a cue from Burchett and rethink their bellicose, Trump-inspired rhetoric. Shears sounds ready to rumble.
“Nationalizing these races will only underscore how out of touch the Republican Party is in the city. We don’t endorse candidates in non-partisan races but we can and will point out this deeply flawed right-wing ploy from the Knox GOP. Knoxville has the most progressive, productive and diverse city council in our history and voters have decidedly made it that way.”
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.