Marshall Stair: The man in the middle (with the money)

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

“Indya’s (Kincannon) got the Democrats and Eddie’s (Mannis) got the Republicans and a few Democrats. Marshall (Stair) is getting squeezed in the middle. He won’t make the runoff.” That’s a rough quote from a semi-knowledgeable political junkie.


There are actually six candidates for Knoxville mayor on the Aug. 27 primary ballot. The others are Michael W. Andrews, Fletcher “Knoxville” Burkhardt and Calvin Taylor Skinner. A candidate who earns 50 percent plus one vote will win it outright. Otherwise, four are eliminated with the top two advancing to the Nov. 5 general election. Get the full schedule here.

Candidates’ second-quarter financial disclosures were due yesterday (7/10). Andrews showed $100 on hand; Burkhardt is running a deficit with $312 on hand and $453 owed; Skinner didn’t file.

Now to the interesting part.

Marshall Stair, 41, absolutely blew away the field. Stair had $249,413 on hand; Mannis reported $161,958 on hand; while Kincannon posted $90,363. It’s safe to say two of these three will make the runoff.

Kincannon, 48, moved to Knoxville when her husband, Ben Barton, took a teaching job at the UT College of Law. She quickly won election to the school board and went on to win twice more. She’s got a master’s degree in urban planning from Princeton. Kincannon’s disclosure shows contributions large and small from across the country. (Who knew the asbestos workers had a PAC? They do, and it sent Indya $1,000. Why?)

Mannis, 60, leads the pack with Facebook likes. He’s got 1,900. While a student at Maryville College, Mannis bought laundry equipment, launched his own business and now employs some 150. His disclosure shows donations from contacts he’s made as founder of Knoxville HonorAir and his service on the airport authority and as board chair of Zoo Knoxville. Several of his donors live in the county, outside the city.

Where are the Haslams, you ask? Hedging their bets with $6,000 to Mannis and $10,500 to Stair. Jimmy and Dee Haslam actually contributed $3,000 to both. Big Jim and wife Natalie gave $1,500 each to Mannis. Jim’s daughter, Ann Bailey, and her husband, Steve, each gave $3,000 to Stair, and Natalie gave him $1,500.

Stair also got donations from Pete DeBusk of DeRoyal Industries and LMU, $3,000; lottery-winner Roy Cockrum, $1,600; Joan Ashe, $1,100; Sharon Pryse, $1,000; MetroPulse guy Joe Sullivan, $1,000; and virtually every lawyer in town. Stair is a lawyer, as is his dad, Caesar.

Money matters, but it matters even more how effectively it’s spent. We’ll catch up with these candidates again as the race progresses.

Meanwhile, Marshall Stair will find himself in the middle once more when the city council is scheduled to vote next Tuesday (7/16) on first reading on Recode Knoxville. Kincannon is for it and Mannis is not. Stair asked for and got a delay in May. Every delay brings more changes and revisions. Nick Della Volpe, writing in Knox TN Today, calls it “half-baked.”

Mayor Madeline Rogero is driving Recode like the “Rawhide” cattle wranglers pushed their herd toward slaughter. Next Tuesday should be fun.

Sandra Clark, editor/publisher of Shopper News (June 1971-April 2017), is editor/CEO of KnoxTNToday Inc.

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