Collision ahead for Burchett, Jacobs?

Larry Van GuilderEar to the Ground

Three words strike fear in the heart of a Knox County voter: “Jacobs for Governor.” They also stir angst in the bosom of Tim Burchett, District 2 congressional representative and Jacobs’ predecessor as Knox County mayor.

Burchett’s yearning for the chief executive seat in Nashville is an open secret, and we have reason to believe Jacobs shares that ambition. (For himself, not for Burchett, even if the congressman’s Facebook page does declare he is following “Jacobs for Mayor.”)

Unfortunately for Burchett, his record in Congress appeals mainly to the MAGA crowd. Like so many of his Republican colleagues, he voted against certifying the 2020 Electoral College vote. Is Burchett anti-democratic as well as anti-Democratic?

The unwary pol can even get tripped up by his own web site. For instance, Burchett wants you to know his goals for the upcoming congressional session include “investment and revitalization in under-served and often forgotten areas of urban and rural America.”

We suppose that sentiment doesn’t include the blighted areas of the country that would be targeted by President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation. Burchett cheerfully voted against the bill, calling it social welfare.

The congressman doesn’t seem to mind being labeled a Trump sycophant. In his district that’s probably helpful. But statewide, especially from Nashville and points west, the tag loses some of its luster.

The current mayor has proved more circumspect than Burchett in his public statements. An unbiased observer can honestly say he is a true professional … wrestler.

Known to the wrestling world as “Kane,” Jacobs typically reserves the ring for flights of braggadocio. Fitting, since there’s little to boast of on his mayoral resume.

He impulsively furloughed nearly 400 county employees in response to declining sales tax projections when the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic was first felt. As it turned out, the financial sky did not fall, and the mayor’s action appeared panicky in hindsight.

Maybe not the steady hand on the tiller you’d want in a state office.

The 600-pound gorilla in this crowded ring is the sitting governor, Bill Lee, who has already signed on for another run. Is Jacobs so confident that he would primary Lee in 2022?

Besides, the masked mayor has already announced his intention to seek reelection. And where would the money come from for a statewide election? That goes double for Burchett who is relatively unknown outside East Tennessee.

Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s never too early to gauge the direction of the political winds, but a 2026 gubernatorial run seems a more reasonable target for both Jacobs and Burchett.

Anyway, when uncertain of a politician’s intentions, go straight to the source:  That’s right, the campaign manager.

Okay, we didn’t really ask for answers from Jacobs’ campaign manager. But asking to speak with the masked mayor himself earns a promise of a call from his communications director (didn’t happen) and a classic “non-denial denial” email from said campaign manager, Rex Purgason.

Purgason writes: “Mayor Jacobs is focused on his job as Knox County Mayor and is working to be re-elected to that position next year.” All right, then.

(Rep. Burchett has not returned our call for comment.)

Larry Van Guilder was an editor and regular columnist for KnoxTN Today until illness forced him to step down last year. He’s back.      

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