Eddie Mannis is running against Gina Oster, but he’s also running against the Republican Party. That’s odd since he is running in the Republican primary for the state House. Mannis and Oster are seeking the West Knoxville seat vacated by the retiring Martin Daniel.
First, there was an effort to prevent Mannis from getting on the ballot as a Republican. House Majority Leader William Lamberth has contributed money to Oster from his PAC. The Majority Leader’s job is to keep the Republican majority and that usually means contributing to the campaigns of incumbent Republicans who have challengers. It is somewhat unusual for someone in Lamberth’s position to contribute money in a primary for an open seat.
Then there is an email blast under the logo of the West Knoxville Republican Club, written by club president Gary Loe, criticizing Mannis for being finance chair and working for “socialist mayor” Madeline Rogero. Mannis contributions to Democratic candidates was an issue in the attempt to keep him off the ballot. The Republican State Executive Committee voted to deny him ballot access, but state GOP chair Scott Golden reinstated him.
It is no secret that Mannis served as deputy mayor at the beginning of Rogero’s first term. It seemed like good training for his long-term plan to run for mayor himself. The office of city mayor is non-partisan, though a mayor’s party preference is no secret. Mannis lost the general election for mayor to Indya Kincannon. The e-mail hit also accuses Mannis of serving as finance chair for Rogero and voting in the Democratic Presidential Primary earlier this year. It is ironic that Mannis lost votes in the city election because he was perceived as a Republican and now is being criticized for not being Republican enough.
Mannis has contributions from prominent members of the community, like Jim Haslam, former Gov. Bill Haslam, local restaurateur Jenny Boyd, better known as the wife of UT President Randy.
Mannis came into the race with name recognition from the mayor’s race. But Oster is a personable and likable real estate agent who has been working the door-to-door campaign hard. The usual suspects think she has the edge at this point.
Huh? Residents of Powell, Halls and Fountain City must have had a good laugh last week when a mailer arrived calling House candidate Patti Bounds an ally of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. Bounds is a retired kindergarten teacher, a school board member and lifelong stalwart of the Republican Party and Right to Life. The mailer was sent by a pro-voucher group criticizing Bounds for opposing Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher bill. That’s the bill a judge ruled unconstitutional that took public education money to fund private schools in Memphis and Nashville.
Bounds is running to replace the retiring state Rep. Bill Dunn, who sponsored the voucher bill.
Loyalty? U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty has pledged his loyalty to President Trump. (Did you know that Trump has endorsed Hagerty?) I have no doubt that Hagerty will be just as loyal to Trump as he has been to his friend and mentor and business partner Mitt Romney. Hagerty does criticize Romney at his campaign stops but since he once gave Romney money and served as his finance chair maybe Romney will forgive him.
There is more than the Senate seat at stake this election. Hagerty is at the tail end of the Howard Baker machine. His defeat will end a chain of interlocking statewide candidates stretching back 50 years. Baker had Lamar Alexander and Fred Thompson on his staff. Alexander worked with former governor Winfield Dunn then became governor. Big Jim Haslam was a reliable fund-raiser. His son Jimmy had a guy named Bob Corker who roomed with him in the family guest cottage during college. Thompson and Corker went to the Senate. In the fullness of time Big Jim’s son Bill became governor.
Hagerty, ECD commissioner under Haslam, is the establishment candidate once considered a shoo-in for the Senate. You wouldn’t know that because he is campaigning as the next Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn, a right-wing senator, replaced Corker to put that seat outside the inner circle of the interlocking directorate.
Should Dr. Manny Sethi upset Hagerty, the GOP establishment would be shut out. By the way, Bill Lee being elected governor also removed the machine’s planned ascension of Randy Boyd to continue the line. Boyd had been groomed to run for governor by Gov. Haslam, both as ECD commissioner and as an education advisor.
Hagerty’s ad blasting Sethi for giving $50 to a friend running in another state smacks of desperation. Is that the best you’ve got? He bought a couple of T-shirts?
Sethi is going to win. He and Blackburn and Lee represent a new era in state politics. That’s a bad thing or a good thing, depending on your point of view.
Sign of the Times: I recently commended liberal columnist Andrew Sullivan for taking a stand against the censorship of ideas and the New York Times allowing young staffers to get an editor fired and management to grovel. He’s been fired from his post at New York magazine because the snowflakes that work there thought Sullivan’s views (classically liberal) were “physically harming.” Sullivan says “we all live on campus now” noting that free speech and nonconforming ideas routinely suppressed on college campuses have now invaded the nation’s newsrooms.
Frank Cagle is a veteran newspaper editor and columnist.