By Steve Hunley


Daniel Herrera and his merry band of political allies are planning and plotting. Not well, mind you, but nonetheless, they are planning and plotting. Herrera’s latest escapade is trying to create a job for his compadre Erik Wiatr. The local ticket has been elected and the state Republicans are moving in to do what they can to try and lift Elaine Davis up for the general election. Things are not going as well with that as the primary was so brutal, that folks aren’t coming back together.

In the midst of the chaos, most of it at the hands of Herrera and Wiatr, Herrera is proposing the Knox County Republican Party hire a “political director.” Of course, no such post has ever existed, nor was there ever any need for one and there isn’t now. Yet Herrera has been circulating a memo to the members of the Executive Committee of the Knox County Republican Party outlining the proposed duties and responsibilities for the purported “political director.” “The Political Director will be responsible for identifying opportunities for growth and developing and meeting long term goals,” the memo states. “During the election season, the Political Director will be responsible for working directly with the Chairman and the Executive Committee to develop and implement a county-wide election plan.” Even more interesting is the statement: “During the Legislative Session, the Political Director will be responsible for monitoring and implementing a plan to carry out the Knox County legislative priorities.” Whose legislative priorities exactly? Evidently, Herrera and company, and most likely Erik Wiatr especially, see the political director as riding herd over our legislators and giving them instructions. Now, nobody in his/her right mind actually believes for a nano-second the members of the Knox County Legislative Delegation would countenance being ordered about by the likes of Erik Wiatr. That little crowd would quickly run into the buzzsaw that comprises the legislative leadership in Nashville.

The supposed outline of just what, or rather who, should be applying for the political director’s job is someone who has “excellent oral and written communication skills and demonstrate a history of hard work and willingness to work long hours, including evenings and weekends.” “Previous campaign experience of 5 – 7 years with political campaign organizing, grassroots, or nonprofit advocacy is required and a Bachelor’s degree is preferred.” As an added thought, “Experience with databases is a plus.”

A lengthy list of bullet points enumerates the vast responsibilities allotted to the part-time employee who is to be the Knox County Republican Party’s political director. Among those duties are, “Foster relationships with legislators, City & County elected officials, and their staff.” “Monitor and oversee progress during the Legislative Session to ensure passage of Knox County legislative priorities.” Another vitally important assignment is stated: “Assist with County convention as duties are assigned by the Chairman and KCEC.” The memo says the supposed political director should be “self-motivated and will possess a strong interest in politics, a Republican infrastructure, is comfortable working with political candidates across the spectrum.”

Wiatr certainly assisted Herrera admirably the last time. He summoned up a following from the aptly named Roving Patriots PAC and a rovin’ they went. Regular readers will recall then-chair of the Knox County GOP, Randy Pace, who just ran dead last in the August primary for the state executive committee, named Christine Cruz as chairman of the county convention’s Credentials Committee. An interesting choice, Ms. Cruz. The lady had barely been in Knox County for ten minutes and had never even voted in a GOP primary in our county. Is there anyone who thinks a person who has never even participated in a Republican primary is qualified to chair a committee at the party’s convention? Especially the person in charge of vetting those attending? Nobody will ever know how many purported delegates were as qualified as Christine Cruz.

As to working with political candidates across the spectrum, Wiatr has certainly been around the world politically speaking, having been a Democrat and a losing candidate for the Green Party before popping up here as a would-be Republican. Now as to working with Republicans across the spectrum, Erik Wiatr is about the last person to qualify. How would he be able to work with Commissioner Larsen Jay after having recruited Steve Weiner (then a member of the Executive Committee) to run against him? How could he work with Janet Testerman after having run Elaine Davis’ campaign against her? Not very likely.

Being familiar with databases doesn’t necessarily mean someone is good at using them. The failed city council ticket recruited from Facebook and sponsored by Herrera demonstrates that fact well enough. Yet it did motivate the Democrats, who successfully raised a boatload of money off of Daniel Herrera’s empty boasting. It was Wiatr who managed the effort to place a property tax cap on the City ballot, an effort which fizzled rather than sizzled.

According to our sources, Wiatr’s numbers in the recent general election were way off target of the actual results.

From the very beginning of his reign as chairman, Daniel Herrera has been more mouth than action. Right from the start, Herrera tried to monetize his position with his stake in the Angle Group, which had two clients beginning with the Republican primary: Christine Cruz, who spent some months trying to run against Commissioner Larsen Jay, and Judson Mason, who was running for the 7th Commission district seat being vacated by Charles Busler. Both dropped their campaigns before the election. The only other candidate of the Angle Group was local attorney Deno Cole who lost the GOP primary to Bud Armstrong in the Chancellor’s race.

Wiatr did run the successful campaign of Rhonda Lee in the 7th District commission race, which was predicated on a failed notion: that the commission can fix what ails the Hallsdale–Powell Utility District. Nobody is happy about the high rates of the Hallsdale–Powell Utility District and it has a pile of debt while KUB has a huge surplus, at least before going into the cable TV business as everybody else is trying to get out of it. Utility districts are regulated by the state and the fact is, the debt must be paid off until or unless Joe Biden decides to “forgive” that, too. Rhonda Lee can no more fix Hallsdale–Powell than our dog Sophie.

The notice sent to the members of the Executive Committee of the Knox County Republican Party, primly states at the bottom of the document, “Interested candidates should submit their resume to the Knox County Republican Party, P. O. Box 431, Knoxville, TN 37901, by September 15, 2022.” Yet, according to our sources,  Daniel Herrera nominated Erik Wiatr for the job at the most recent Knox County Republican Party Executive Committee meeting. This obviously was well before the deadline on the document in what has been described as an attempt to fill the job long before the deadline.

I can pretend a suit tailored for me is a one-size-fits-all, but that doesn’t make it true. The document sent to the members of the Executive Committee of the Knox County Republican Party is less meaningful than an IOU written on toilet paper. It is entirely for show and there is every reason to believe it is a sham. The political director memo, circulated behind closed doors, was intended and tailored to fit Erik Wiatr.

Much of what the party chair has done in the past is to be handed over to a part-time employee who has made his living by running candidates in primaries. That is a violation of the rules of the Tennessee State Republican Party, but Scott Golden is fixated on keeping enough members of the state committee happy to keep himself in a job.

If Daniel Herrera is too lazy to do the job as chairman of the party, he should resign; if he is too incompetent to do the job, he should resign.

What the Knox County Republican Party needs is someone intent on bringing the party together and expanding it. The only thing Daniel Herrera and Erik Wiatr have done is to tear it apart, which was reflected in the abysmal vote totals in the recent general election.

If this little motley crew of political allies thinks that creating a part-time job with a made-up title is going to cause officials elected by tens of thousands of Knox Countians to kiss their rings, they are even more delusional than I think they are. The only thing a fake political director can accomplish here is to make the Republicans Knox County’s minority party.