Knox County Mayor's race begins, election is 18 months away

By: Gordon Boyd Email
By: Gordon Boyd Email

Two-and a- half term State Senator Tim Burchett may have served plenty of bologna and moon-pies for his "working folks lunch" at the Powell Auction House Friday afternoon.

But he's promised his hundreds of politically active guests a "meat and potatos" run for Knox County Mayor in 2010

"We need to make sure our law enforcement is funded and has the proper tools to fight crime," Burchett says.

"Education, we're not just competiting with surrounding counties--we're competing with the world--we need to have a good quality public education which I'm a product of--and third, we need to keep taxes low."

By law, Burchett can't even pick up his qualifying papers until June 2009.

But announcing his intentions now, allows him to begin raising
money and allows would-be candidates for his Senate seat to begin their own campaigns in earnest.

Being "first in" could set the race pace too.

"You always hear Tim Hutchison is interested in it, " says Knox County Property Assessor Phil Ballard.

Knox County's former Sheriff says we'll have to wait
til January--to hear him announce his intentions.

"I don't know if and when I'll get back into public service work," Hutchison told Volunteer TV in July 2007.

"But it does fit me."

County Commissioners Larry Smith and Mike Hammond
say they're considering running -- if enough of their "urgers"
back their urging--with enough cash to compete.

"I believe you're looking at about a quarter of a million to $300 thousand to compete in the primary," says Commissioner Hammond, who's term-limited out of his 5th District Commission seat in 2010.

"We're trying to run Knox County without raising taxes on people, says Commissioner Smith.

" The budget is going to be the biggest issue that they (county mayorl candidates)have."

Commissioner Hammond believes the greater challenge will be dealing with Knox County's "reconstituted" County Commission. Voters have amended the county Charter to "shrink" the Commission from nineteen members, to eleven: one commissioner for each of Knox County's nine Districts, plus two "at-large" commissioners elected county-wide.

"The ramifications of that, I believe, are quite significant," Commissioner Hammond says.

Many Commissioners and other political observers believe Job #1, for many mayorall candidate, will be to rebuild trust in county government, given that the Mayor's office has been mired in spending scandals, and that Commission, collectively, has been convicted of violating Tennessee Open Meeting's laws.

Knox County Property Assessor Phil Ballard was among the 300 or so, attending Burchett's campaign kickoff at the Powell Auction House/

"I'm just here as a good Republican, and as a race of one its easy to support Tim today."

Former County Commissioner Diane Jordan concurs, if fellow Democrat, former colleague--and current Commission Chairman Tank Strickland--were to run.

"Tim just has more experience, Ms. Jordan says. "He's more county-wide known, and I'm the candidate more so than I am for the Party."

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