By Steve Hunley
The people of Knoxville and Knox County deserve a big pat on the back for coming out and voting last Tuesday. If anybody doubts the power of voting, last week’s election should dispel a lot of preconceived notions; if anybody doubts the ability of the people to overcome a deluge of cash provided by millionaires and billionaires, repeated endorsements by the Knoxville News Sentinel, and the community ruling elite, you should put your mind at ease.
There were some big losers in the wake of last Tuesday night’s election, not the least of which was the establishment. Not only did Donald Trump carry Tennessee, but the local elections were a disaster for the ruling trifecta in Knox County. Comprised of the Sentinel, the Chamber of Commerce and the wealthy elite, the trifecta had ponied up almost $300,000 in local campaigns at last count. Nathan Rowell spent more than $100,000 to get the dickens beaten out of him by Bud Armstrong; Grant Standefer spent more than $40,000 to lose badly to Jennifer Owen. Big spender Buddy Pelot trailed far behind Susan Horn. Jim Weaver, endorsed by the News-Sentinel, lost to former Knox County property Assessor John Whitehead. It was also a bad night for the Knoxville News Sentinel with most of their favored candidates going down to defeat.
Another big loser in last week’s election was departing Superintendent of Schools Jim McIntyre. With Jennifer Owen’s lopsided victory over Grant Standefer, another critic of McIntyre’s reign is replacing Tracie Sanger. While hardly anybody took Tracie Sanger seriously, Sanger was an ardent supporter of McIntyre and I can’t imagine anybody will miss her angry rants. Tony Norman will replace yet another McIntyre backer and it appears Susan Horn is the odds on favorite to succeed Karen Carson, Jim McIntyre’s defender-in-chief on the board of education. It is impossible for anybody with a brain to interpret the election results as an endorsement of either McIntyre or the McIntyre majority on the Board of Education. With Carson having been ignominiously beaten in her campaign for the State House by Jason Zachary and the establishment candidates for the Board losing, it is impossible to argue that the results had much to do with McIntyre’s tenure. Put plainly, it was a flat out rejection of McIntyre and his minions. The establishment has nobody to blame but themselves; the warning signs were there for anybody to see, but the Sentinel, Chamber of Commerce and wealthy elite held on well after there was no longer any life in the body.
Many of McIntyre’s rubber stamps on the Board had waged a vicious campaign against Law Director Bud Armstrong and now Gloria Deathridge and Lynne Fugate will likely be the only members of the Board who are closely allied with the superintendent. Armstrong ran well even in the citadel of the establishment’s lair, the Fourth District. It seems likely neither Fugate nor Deathridge will be much of a factor in future Board deliberations.
The establishment candidates had every advantage going into this election cycle: awash with cash, the constant endorsement of the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the ruling wealthy elite. What they did not have was the people. You folks made your own choices, your own endorsements and you made it plain… money can’t buy everything.