Dashing toward the finish line

Sandra ClarkFeature, Northeast Knox

Three types of people came out in the rain for free ice cream today. There were the candidates, tired to the bone, who see an end ahead with voting on Thursday, Aug. 2. There were the folks who would easily drive 40 miles on narrow roads for free Cruze Farm ice cream. And there were those who showed up to make a statement of support for Tim Burchett, perhaps the most unique character East Tennessee will have sent to Congress since David Crockett.

Earl and Cheri Cruze put on a swell party. Young men with umbrellas escorted guests to the shed. The line for ice cream moved quickly, and selections were plentiful. Folks circulated among tables, talking with old friends and speculating on the outcome of tomorrow’s elections.

Burchett was the favorite of this crowd in his bid to replace U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan. The talk was not “will he win?” but “by how much?” Somebody in the crowd said Burchett needs to pile up a 10-point spread to secure the job from future foes. Running every two years is a grind. The primary winner still must face the Democratic nominee – Renee Hoyos or Joshua Williams – in November.

Dave Wright feels comfortable in his race for the GOP nomination for state representative, replacing Rep. Harry Brooks, who retired. Dave stood near the ice cream line, shaking hands like it was his party. OK. It was his district.

Political pros wanted to talk about the governor’s race, and Bill Lee had the buzz. “He can’t win; nobody has heard of him,” I said. “Nobody had heard of Winfield Dunn,” countered Victor Ashe. Dunn, a Memphis dentist, won the GOP nomination in 1970 on the strength of a huge turnout in Memphis. Diane Black, Bill Lee and Beth Harwell are parsing up the suburban Nashville vote.

But social media has changed the election game. Negative advertising from Randy Boyd and Diane Black has damaged both, freeing space for Lee and Harwell to emerge as “the good guys.” And there’s an undertow from the religious right, at least around here – our friends the Bapto-Catholics as Bill Dunn called them in 1994 – for Lee, who earns the prize for stuffing the word “Christian” the most times into a 30-second TV spot.

Four Republicans have spent more than $50 million in this primary. That’s obscene. And it’s why most of us are weary of the race. Go vote. Pick your poison. Then enjoy the rest of summer. It’s almost gone!

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