Bob Thomas walked into Holly’s Gourmet Market, ordered a latte and started working the room, shaking hands with the close diners and waving to those farther away. You’d think this guy was running for office.
But wait! He probably is. File this under “scoop,” but Thomas, an unsuccessful candidate for Knox County mayor in 2018, is seriously considering a race for Knoxville City Council this year when three men holding at-large seats are term-limited. Vice Mayor Finbarr Saunders, attorney Marshall Stair (who’s running for mayor) and Realtor George Wallace won’t be on the ballot.
Five people already have appointed a campaign treasurer, the first step in running: former school board member Lynne Fugate, Seat A; David Hayes and Janet Testerman, Seat B; Amy Midis, Seat C; and Pond Gap activist David Williams, who did not designate a seat.
Thomas enjoyed his four-year term on Knox County Commission and says he misses the opportunities to make a difference – to vote what’s best for people.
Thomas and his at-large colleague, Ed Brantley, held evening meetings once a month in various parts of the county. Usually, Kim Thomas and Linda Brantley came along for dinner. Maybe it was their best chance to see their husbands. Ed and Bob worked together at WIVK-FM early in their careers. Bob and Kim moved to California to boost son Jake’s acting career; Ed became station manager. Ed recruited Bob back to Knoxville to co-host a morning talk show. The men continue to work together. Check their podcast.
Bob cares about Knoxville’s future. He’s got six grandchildren. He contributed to business growth as a member of the county’s industrial development board. And he’s wondering why some projects, like the BMX track at South-Doyle Middle School, have stopped.
Can Bob Thomas win citywide? A look at last May’s Republican Primary is instructive. Glenn Jacobs posted a razor-thin win: Jacobs got 14,640 votes (36.10 percent); Brad Anders got 14,617 votes (36.04 percent); and Thomas got 11,301 votes (27.86 percent).
Many pundits believe Anders and Thomas drew from the same support – that either one alone would have beaten Jacobs. The professional wrestler got big margins outside the city. For instance, at Sequoyah School, Thomas outpolled Jacobs 210-105. At Gibbs, Jacobs got 641 to Thomas’s 374.
Thomas announced early but could not establish a lead sufficient to keep Anders out of the race. Maybe Anders was running all along. Thomas says his campaign targeted people who had voted in three or more of the last six elections. “We went with the three-of-sixes, but there was a high turnout of one-of-sixes.” He thinks that demographic went heavily for Jacobs. “Of course, Knox County has one of the biggest viewing audiences for professional wrestling in America.”