‘The hay’s in the barn’

Larry Van GuilderAs I see it, Farragut, West Knoxville

For now, the door-knocking is done, the flyers have been mailed and phone banks will soon grow still. It’s game time, kickoff set for this morning, March 3, when the polls open at 8 a.m.

Among the closely watched races will be the contest for Knox County Commission District 4 in the Republican primary. Commission chair Hugh Nystrom’s decision to step down after one term opened the door for Scott Broyles and Kyle Ward.

“I feel pretty good, pretty confident,” Ward said on election eve. “I’m ready for the (forecasted) rain.”

Ward added that he will also welcome a day off.

Ward’s opponent, Scott Broyles, summed up the campaign saying, “The hay’s in the barn. It’s been a full-court press the last couple of days. I knocked on doors yesterday until I’m blue in the face.”

The margin of victory could be slim in this battle. The winner will face Democrat Todd Frommeyer in August unless a write-in candidate springs a surprise.

It’s said that Republicans turn out in better numbers in the rain than Democrats. The adage is largely irrelevant tomorrow unless you hold a presumptive edge as an incumbent Democratic candidate and wish to avoid any circumstance that might give your revved-up opposition a boost in turnout.

That’s the picture in the Democratic primary race for Commission District 1. Incumbent Evelyn Gill is matched against Dasha Lundy, the president of the Burlington Residents Association with deep roots in East Knoxville.

Gill flirted with political disaster in 2019 when Knox County settled a lawsuit for $93,000 filed on behalf of a special needs student at South-Doyle Middle School. The suit alleged abuse by Gill when she was a teacher at the school.

A subsequent ouster suit was dropped when Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong closed the investigation citing lack of evidence.

While campaign contributions don’t translate directly to votes or indicate broad-based support for a candidate, it’s noteworthy that Lundy has received $8,824 in donations since January compared to Gill’s $1,214. Both Lundy and Gill bring notable academic credentials and records of community involvement to the contest, but voter memory of the incumbent’s 2019 woes may determine the outcome.

My “Kincannon Catastrophe” earlier this year in which I brazenly (and foolishly) predicted a win for Eddie Mannis in the Knoxville mayor’s race made me a more cautious prognosticator. But, sometimes, temptation’s lure is too strong. This time the District 5 Commission race is too much for me.

The candidates are, physically, a study in contrasts: Silver-haired incumbent John Schoonmaker and legal wunderkind (law school at 19) Clayton Wood. Philosophically, their platforms remain true to their Republican roots (low taxes and a small government).

Stark differences between the two become more apparent when their financial disclosures are examined. Wood’s campaign raked in over $36,000 since January. Schoonmaker reported a modest $4,000 for the same period.

Wood’s reports are awash with $500 contributions from real estate developers and attorneys. Schoonmaker’s core is embodied by the Council of West Knox County Homeowners. He was president of the organization for 12 years.

Developers and attorneys are not inherently bad actors – we need both professions. But several names on Wood’s financial report are anathema to West Knox County homeowners, and the young attorney’s embrace of Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs probably won’t move the needle in his favor. Conclusion: Schoonmaker holds serve.

David Buuck and Cathy Quist Shanks are familiar names in Knox County government, Buuck for his tenure in the law director’s office, Shanks for her years as Circuit Court Clerk. Each wants to replace Law Director Bud Armstrong.

Mud has flown from both camps, enough to make one wish government employment was term-limited. Neither candidate, you can bet, thinks much of the idea of an appointed law director.

Get out and vote today. A little rain won’t hurt you.

Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for KnoxTNToday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *