How to predict the outcome of a political race?
I look at money, support and strategy.
Knox County Commission has two at-large seats: District 10 where Larsen Jay, running for re-election, is challenged by Christine Cruz in the May GOP Primary; and District 11, an open seat now held by Justin Biggs who is running for trustee.
District 11 features two Republican newcomers in the May 2022 primary – Kim Frazier and Devin Driscoll – with possible candidates Matthew Lawson (R) and Vivian Underwood Shipe (D). A simple click on their name will take you to their campaign website. Here’s what you won’t see:
Money: The best fundraisers to date are Jay and Driscoll. Jay is funded by the Republican establishment, while Driscoll has big checks from most every developer in town. (Here’s my take on the July 2021 disclosures.) (Note: I have contributed to Jay; my nephew, named Jay, has contributed to Cruz.) I expect Larsen Jay to have topped $250,000 when the next disclosures are filed.
Support: The most passionate support is for Cruz, a player on the Daniel Herrera team that went 0-5 on city council races Nov. 2. Cruz and Herrera can muster a small army of dedicated anti-mask, anti-vax, “we’re not your grandpa’s GOP” true believers. They’re not the majority yet, but there’s time … if they don’t perish from Covid or become a grandpa.
Likewise, Frazier has committed supporters across the county – people she has met through her volunteer work with Knox Rescue, where her husband, Dr. Russ Frazier, is chief, and with planning and historic preservation activists.
Don’t discount Jay’s support. As founder of Random Acts of Flowers, he made a lot of speeches and many friends. He does a monthly ride-along with a different deputy and has pitched in to help community groups like the Beaver Creek Kayak Club. Jay is strong on follow-through.
Strategy: Can Jay develop blue-collar support? Can he overcome negative campaigning from Cruz/Herrera?
Can Cruz get past being viewed as a one-issue candidate? And how deep are her physician husband’s pockets?
Can Frazier broaden her appeal by talking issues other than planning? Commissioners are expected to know about schools, roads, parks, public health, libraries, law enforcement and budgets.
Driscoll is personable with credentials in business. He’s a blank slate politically – the developer contributions are a reaction to Frazier’s perceived anti-development bent.
Either race could go either way, depending on money, support and strategy.
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.