Throw Byrd to the wolves? Understandable but rash

Frank CagleFrank Talk

It’s understandable that there is an impulse among some state House members to expel state Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, for sexually harassing young women basketball players when he was a coach 30 years ago. But sometimes you need impulse control lest you do something rash.

Frank Cagle

Should the House decide the guilt or innocence of a member for behavior that occurred decades before his/her election to the legislature? Or should the body reserve its expulsion power for legislators who misbehave while in office? If it’s the former then where does it end? And what sort of behavior is included?

It would be one thing if voters were misled or surprised to discover allegations of bad behavior. In Byrd’s case the allegations of sexual harassment were well known in his district. The voters elected him anyway. It does not behoove House members to ignore the wishes of the voters and overturn an election.

State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat, has led the charge to punish Republican Byrd. State Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, resigned from leadership for allegedly violating current House sexual harassment rules.

Byrd, meanwhile, has told colleagues he will not run for re-election next year.

My personal opinion is that Byrd should not be disciplined by the House. And neither should Staples have been. The rule should be expel or discipline any member who harasses an intern or state employee – it’s a power issue. Any other sexual misbehavior is for the TBI and a district attorney.

New speaker: New House Speaker Cameron Sexton represents Crossville now, but he grew up closer to home. He graduated from Oak Ridge High School and has a degree from UT.

  • Fun fact: He got started in politics working in the campaign of state Sen., now Lt. Gov., Randy McNally. Now the two preside over the two chambers of the legislature.
  • Sexton made a couple of key decisions as soon as he was sworn in. He made Curtis Johnson from Clarksville the deputy speaker and, as we predicted, moved former Speaker Glen Casada’s crony Matthew Hill from Jonesborough out. Johnson was speaker pro tem during Speaker Beth Harwell’s reign and lost his own bid for speaker.
  • Sexton removed state Rep. Andy Holt as chair of “budget sub” a Finance Committee subcommittee considered the most powerful post after leadership because nothing that costs money can pass without coming out of that subcommittee. It is sometimes called the “black hole.” Removing Holt from being in charge of the subcommittee that controls the state budget ought to let us all sleep a little better at night.

Primary day: Considering the wide disparity among my survey of the usual suspects I can only conclude that no one has any idea who will win the Knoxville mayor’s race.

  • Indya Kincannon’s support is as “strong as onions” and will turn out. Kincannon peaked too soon. Take your choice.
  • Marshall Stair wins the “who would you rather have a beer with” test. But does he lack gravitas?
  • If the election were countywide, it’s Eddie Mannis easily. But it’s a city election and how much of his support is in the suburbs? But Mannis in the runoff seems to be a consistent theme.

If the three leading candidates for mayor are tightly bunched, as many people believe, what may have been discounted is the other candidates’ effect on the margin. Suppose the total vote for the three non-major candidates is at eight to 10 percent? Which major candidate might have gotten those votes otherwise? And where do they go in the general election?

Running as a slate is usually not a good idea in politics. While you may pitch the idea of a unified front you also pick up the enemies of other members of your slate. It’s hard enough for one candidate to connect with voters, trying to get voters to endorse the idea of multiple candidates usually doesn’t work. It will be interesting to see how the City Council Movement slate turns out. One would think that Amelia Parker, being better known and having run before, would fare better on her own. David Hayes and Charles Al-Bawi less so.

Two months? It’s been two months since DirecTV subscribers in the Knoxville area lost the ABC station WATE, Channel Six, due to a contract fight between the satellite company and the owner of the station. Wonder what effect that’s having on local TV ratings and ad sales? What happens when we miss the first SEC football game?

It’s Kane! You may have noticed frequent stories on local media websites about Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs that invariably discuss the fact that he was (is?) a WWE star. We all know that, so what’s the point in repeating it? It’s all about the clicks, baby. WWE fans and Google can make a routine local story garner major hits on the internet.

Frank Cagle is a retired newspaperman and the former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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