Getting hotter in Knoxville

For longer than your correspondent has called Tennessee home, the Second Congressional District has been represented by the second John Duncan in a row, causing one family’s hold on the seat to span more than 50 years. The majority of voters okay with this arrangement might well have continued on the same path someday with John Duncan III, but there’s been a snag in the works. (HT Humphrey)

Enter Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, whose affability and skill might overflow the constraints of his public service to-date, which comprises two paltry terms in countywide office and his previous statehouse stints. Burchett surveyed a horizon rich with higher office opportunities—an open gubernatorial spot, a U.S. Senate seat whose incumbent hasn’t publicly committed to running for re-election, and…the U.S. House of Representatives? Sure, why not? It’s just a half-century dynasty.

Besides, the contest for governor has already started in earnest, with fellow East Tennessean Randy Boyd out front in the money race. And even if U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s favorability has flagged a bit among likely GOP voters, winning a statewide primary against other challengers and a two-term incumbent is no easy task.

However, as a friend points out, Duncan has skills of his own, to say nothing of his aforementioned tenacity. Consider this recent maneuver. It’s bacon, wrapped in an unassailable coating of help for veterans, and tied up with a bow from a president who, though he may be embattled in Washington or New York or San Francisco or many, many other places, enjoys persistent support from his base.

Former and future congressional candidate in the neighboring Third District, Weston Wamp, tweeted his encouragement to Burchett this week.

Additional open displays of support are sparse at this point, but we might keep our eyes on the Knoxville area as things progress. And yes, there is a Democrat running for this seat as well.

Posted in U.S. House Elections Tagged with: , , , ,

Brooks is done

A small list of House seats that will not have an incumbent in 2018 added one member yesterday, when Rep. Harry Brooks announced that he is retiring from his District 19 seat. Brooks also donated his campaign treasury contents to four Knoxville area schools.

The Knoxville Mercury alludes to a News Sentinel report that Knox County Commission chair Dave Wright had earlier expressed interest in the seat.

Brooks was first elected in 2002.

Posted in TN House Elections Tagged with: ,

SCOTUS decision to take up gerrymandering case draws applause, but wait

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case (Gill v. Whitford) challenging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering should be a hopeful signal to everyone—well, except hardline, win-at-all-cost partisans.

Unfortunately but predictably, I’m finding some short-sighted takes on this news. “Democrats should be cautiously very happy with this,” gushes The Fix’s Aaron Blake.

In The Atlantic, Vann Newkirk’s slightly steadier hand warns that the Court will not have decided whether there is merit to hear the case until after a hearing.

The more stridently left-wing Think Progress engages in a bit of breathless pleading for Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to stay on the Court “just a little longer” to avoid, as they would describe it, decades of doom.

Writing in Western Journalism, Randy DeSoto flips the perspective to argue the same point but sympathetic to the GOP: “[T]he Republicans have more at stake” with this case, even though there is a case against Democrats in Maryland participating in the same thing.

Granted, it was the GOP that recently got good at drawing lines for their advantage, and capitalized on that edge. We don’t have to look anywhere outside Tennessee to find this out. The current supermajorities in both House and Senate are not exclusively indebted to the 2011 redistricting, but it can’t have hurt. And it’s likely we haven’t reached the end of how it will play out. The Tennessee Democratic Party is clearly squeezed into narrower confines.

But a focus on that is missing the larger point. There is no convincing me that any other party, given the opportunity, would not do the same thing. That is why this is an important case.

David Savage quotes Trevor Potter, former Republican chair of the Federal Election Commission, in the Los Angeles Times:

“The threat of partisan gerrymandering isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an issue for all American voters,” he said. “We’re confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Supreme Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

The Texas state legislature faces multiple legal challenges to its district maps, for racial gerrymandering in addition to the partisan flavor. The rich tapestry of interlocking issues could explain the Dallas Morning Newsanalytical approach to reporting on Monday’s announcement. To my eye, Jamie Lovegrove’s piece carefully treads among the facts about which party has current complaints, without giving in to angst or defensiveness on any side.

Bottom line: The benefit from the reform that’s needed is not for the party that is currently on the outs. Voters need protection from being “cracked” and “packed” into districts by partisan puppeteers. I’m fully aware that there is no ideally “pure” way to do this: an independent redistricting commission would inevitably be chosen and staffed by political people. But it can get better than it is.

And instead of cheering the news, Democrats should soberly reflect on the fact that a partisan gerrymandering ban would also apply to them, when the pendulum swings their way.

Posted in Commentary, Election Laws Tagged with: , ,

Cui bono?

Tennessee Senator Mae Beavers

After Sen. Mae Beavers announced that she is running for governor, Mark Rogers mused about who might be urging her candidacy in order to stymie Sen. Mark Green’s bid.

Here is a list of signatories pleading for Green’s re-entry into the race (which isn’t happening).

What do you think? Is Beavers’ run a faction-driven ploy, or an earnest antithesis to moderates in the GOP primary? Now that Green’s out I guess Rogers’ question hardly matters. But if there were such a motive, that might make the rest of the campaign just that much more interesting.

Posted in Political News, TN Gubernatorial Elections Tagged with: ,

Gov. Haslam visits Woodmore Elementary, meets with school officials


Posted in Governing Tagged with: , ,