The good news for Knoxville mayoral candidate Eddie Mannis is that his two principal opponents may split the same pool of voters. Marshall Stair and Indya Kincannon are both Democrats, there is no daylight separating them from incumbent Mayor Madeline Rogero and you would be hard pressed to find an issue over which they would have a deep divide.
The bad news for Mannis is that if one of these two opponents makes the runoff where will the third-place finishers’ voters go in the general election? In other words, do supporters of Kincannon and Stair have the other as a second choice, or will it be a reset?
To avoid this possibility Mannis would need to win the primary with at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one negating the need for the mayoral race to go to the general election.
Despite having three good candidates as front-runners the voter turnout may still be low. Boring debates and very little in the way of fireworks may not generate much enthusiasm.
Mannis has staked out his own ideas that differ from the current administration and Stair and Kincannon. He opposed moving police headquarters into the old St. Mary’s hospital site and he has opposed implementing Recode, the massive rewrite of the city zoning codes. Both his opponents favor the measures. Considering the unpopularity of Recode and the fear of the unknown, Mannis ought to be hammering the issue and making the election a referendum on classifying and reclassifying 73,000 pieces of city property. Recode should get final approval at City Council tonight.
There are two unknowns for Mannis that are hard to gauge.
Where are the veterans and how many of them live in the city? As founder and leader of the Knoxville HonorAir program he is widely admired, especially by Vietnam and Korean war veterans who made the trip to Washington and returned to a hero’s welcome at the airport. It was the welcome home they never got returning from two unpopular wars.
A lot of people decry bringing political parties into what is ostensibly a non-partisan city election. But despite Mannis’s business success and his stint as city chief operating officer, he is being criticized for being a Republican.
Democrats have done well in Knoxville elections, from Rogero to U.S. House candidate Renee Hoyos.
But will Knoxville Republicans turn out in force for Mannis? Rogero was the first Democrat elected mayor since Randy Tyree upset incumbent Republican Kyle Testerman in 1976. Turnout in mayoral elections is often light. In a low turnout election can the Republicans match Democratic turnout? And Mannis also has a lot of Democratic support, especially in the business community.
Best ad: The best campaign commercial in the Knoxville mayor’s race is an email that made the rounds with Indya Kincannon’s husband, Ben Barton, just siting and talking about his wife: the type of person she is, her work for constituents when she was on the school board, being a great mother and wife and the pride he has in her for running for office. There is no show biz or fakery, just a down-to-earth conversation from the heart.
New winning technique: For you Democrats concerned about presidential candidate front-runner Joe Biden being a gaffe machine, you need to relax. It’s the new way to be authentic and win voters. In 2015 Donald Trump was declared dead just about every week for some outrageous comment. Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals, Biden just gives women unwelcome shoulder massages and sniffs their hair. Trump made fun of war heroes and attacked Gold Star mothers. Biden avers that poor kids are as smart as “white kids.” And he said he welcomed survivors of the Parkland High School shooting to visit him in the White House, though the shooting occurred a year after he left office. Trump and Biden demonstrate what candidates look like without handlers or messaging experts. They are authentic true-blue idiots. Isn’t it endearing?
Frank Cagle is a longtime journalist and a former deputy mayor of Knoxville. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org