Knox GOP to pick leaders: Smith/Crye or Pace/Dewar

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

Former state Rep. Eddie Smith says he won’t be a candidate for elective office any time soon. “It’s my time to be a dad,” Smith said Feb. 18 at the Halls Republican Club. He is seeking to chair the Knox County Republican Party, however.

Delegates will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at Central High School to select officers for the next two years. Smith has teamed with Janis Crye of Halls, who will serve as first vice chair.

Randy Pace and Suzanne Dewar, both of West Knox County, are also seeking the posts.

On Monday, Crye said Smith asked her to run and she’s proud to assist him in building the Republican Party locally. Dewar, who declined a photo, said she’s served the GOP for 20 years. She is the current first vice chair.

Randy Pace

Randy Pace: Pace retired as a chief petty officer after 23 years in the U.S. Navy. He relocated to Knoxville after serving as mayor and council member in Medford, N.J., when his wife took a job in Oak Ridge.

Pace outlined a six-point platform, stressing organization and chain of command. “It takes time, effort and focus to be successful,” he said. “I’m not a bit concerned about my ability to lead something this large.”

Using the military model, Pace promised leadership training, strategic planning and event scheduling, fundraising and budgeting, communications including connecting with like-minded groups, voter registration, and outreach to high schools.

“We’ve got to up our game. I don’t work for a living. This is my job.”

Eddie Smith: Smith said his four years as a state representative “was a privilege I’ll never forget.” He said 2020 is important, but Republicans should look toward 2030 and beyond.

“We’re not building relationships. We must do this as a party, and we must give our young people a better seat at the table.” He rattled off more ideas: “We need to sell Lincoln Day Dinner tickets online to reach different people.”

Smith said his strengths are “relationships, connections and knowing how to organize.”

And Smith said Republicans can impact nonpartisan elections such as city council and school board by asking questions about the role of government, tax increases and “the city’s 76 percent funded pension fund.”

Analysis: A question about education funding drew sparks, with Pace saying “anybody who tells you the schools need more money is lying. Government should live within its means. … there’s no incentive for schools to be efficient.” Smith countered, “I believe our schools need more money, but we also need more efficient government. We can’t throw money into a black hole.”

Pace represents the GOP’s white-male, suburban base. And he seems not to understand Knox County Republicans’ dislike of hierarchy and rules. Elected officeholders control their staff, their fundraising, their campaigns. The system has worked for them, so why change?

Smith carried the Republican banner in an inner-city district that had been represented by Democrats since districts were created in the 1960s. He won twice, and he represents the GOP’s future. I’m tempted to say this race contrasts Republican wall-builders and bridge-builders, but I don’t want to jinx Eddie.

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