It is embarrassing but hardly surprising that a redneck county commissioner used a homophobic slur against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. I daresay you could find county commissioners all around East Tennessee who would express the sentiments voiced by Warren Hurst. What makes Hurst memorable is that it was a public meeting, it was recorded and it was in Sevier County.
There are two Sevier Counties. The natives, matching up with many small town and rural counties around East Tennessee, and an overlay of tourist business and community leaders who have transformed the place into a money machine. Dolly Parton is the face of Sevier County, not Warren Hurst.
Knoxville has been considered gay friendly since before it was cool. A large and fairly liberal university community helped. Knoxville has also been the place where gay young people fleeing conservative small communities around East Tennessee found sanctuary. The Carousel Club flourished as a dance club back in the 1990s.
It is not surprising that an openly gay man led the ticket in the primary for mayor of Knoxville and Eddie Mannis is poised to make history in his home town. He has the executive experience and history of service to make him the front runner. Is he East Tennessee’s answer to the national coverage of Hurst’s slur? Or does Knoxville’s sophisticated view of the issue overlay a group of people who share Sevier County Commissioner Hurst’s world view?
I think it’s likely there are two other factors that may be more relevant.
Where did Marshall Stair’s voters go after he came in third in the primary? Stair has endorsed Indya Kincannon. But many Stair yard signs in West Knoxville seem to have been replaced by Mannis signs. It seemed, early on, that Stair was in agreement with fellow Democrat Kincannon on issues and she would benefit. But what if Kincannon got most all of her voters in the primary and that support has not grown?
Though the mayoral race is non-partisan, a lot of voters can’t ignore party labels. It has been observed that Mannis may face more prejudice for being Republican than being gay.
You shouldn’t vote for someone solely because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. But given that Mannis is the best qualified executive to run the city, how can people who support gay rights pass up a chance to make history?
Campaign issue: Renee Hoyos, the Democratic candidate for the Second District U.S. House seat, told supporters at a gathering in Jefferson City last week that she has made 3,700 calls “dialing for dollars” and her campaign is nearing $130,000 in contributions. She said there are issues in the campaign, like health care and climate change, but the principal issue is “the incumbent Congressman.” That would be Republican Tim Burchett, who has been unswerving in his support for President Trump.
Beating a dead horse: While we were all busy watching football, they killed another horse at the Santa Anita racetrack on Saturday. It happened during the Breeders’ Cup series of races, the most prestigious day of horse racing each year. The dead horse was the 37th horse to break a leg and be euthanized at the track in recent months. There had been calls to move the races to another track but the calls were ignored.
I wrote recently about the abuses in thoroughbred racing and the failure of the industry to police itself. The New York Times noted that NBC was covering the celebration of the race winner at the same time a horse ambulance was picking up Mongolian Groom, still out on the track, to take him to the barn to be put down. No legislation to clean up the sport is likely thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Churchill Downs.
Frank Cagle is a retired newspaperman and the former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.