By Steve Hunley
Inside Tennessee: Herrera vs. Shears

WBIR’s Inside Tennessee recently hosted a conversation between the respective political party chairs in Knoxville. Republican Daniel Herrera and Democrat Matt Shears are both young and vocal; both seem to really like the limelight and like attention; both are highly partisan, as is always the case for a party chair.

WBIR, as politically correct as TV stations come, hosted the program via Zoom with their own partisan panel of Susan Richardson Williams for the Republicans and Billy Stair for the Democrats. Nobody who knows anything about the mainstream media could be surprised much of the discussion surrounded the recent Knoxville City Council elections. Herrera had foolishly proclaimed he would push the GOP to win the five council seats up for election this year. Oddly, Daniel Herrera has adopted the practice used by national Democrats reeling from the excesses of the Left inside their own party; double down and double down on top of that. Herrera was a bit loose with his facts, something hardly unknown to Matt Shears, by the way. Herrera claims the five failed candidates swept 13 precincts in the recent election and compared it to 2017. That ignores the fact that two Republicans WON the election to the city council two years ago: Janet Testerman and Lynne Fugate. None of the five city council candidates this year were elected; in fact, they ran five percentage points behind Eddie Mannis in his losing bid for mayor.

Herrera defended his decision to pay Charlie Kirk $20,000 to speak at the Lincoln Day Dinner and bragged that the local GOP expects to have $100,000 in the bank. Of course, the Democrats have raised twice that. Not bad for the minority party. Shears boasted about the progress of Democrats, citing Sequoyah Hills as one of those precincts as moving from red to blue. Of course, Sequoyah Hills has become home to many of those affiliated with the University of Tennessee instead of Knoxville’s business community and that, too, has affected the political outlook of those voting there.

Former Mayor Victor Ashe and I were noted by Shears as Republicans who have questioned Daniel Herrera’s leadership of the Knox County GOP. I had to laugh when Matt Shears waved his hand and said we’ve had nonpartisan elections for the school board “as long as we can remember.” His own memory being as young as he is can’t be that long, as he was probably in high school ten years ago. In fact, we had partisan school board elections until 2000 when the state legislature changed school board elections to non-partisan and school superintendents were to be appointed rather than elected.

For that matter, none of the “panelists” or hosts questioned Shears about Democrat policies or the Biden administration. All of the focus was on Herrera while the hosts and panelists let Shears off scot-free. Local media has allowed Matt Shears to glide along virtually unchallenged while nipping after Herrera every step of the way. That having been said, I will be the first to acknowledge Herrera keeps providing media outlets with things to nip about on a regular basis.

Susan Richardson Williams asked Herrera about the Angle Group, a political consulting and lobbying firm. Herrera said he had not been a part of the Angle Group for “three or four months.” There does need to be some definition of just precisely when and how Daniel Herrera divested himself of that interest. Herrera has said he had received a payment of “around $2,000” and that needs to be detailed as to where it came from and for what exactly. The fact is, the Angle Group is participating in and making money off Republican primary contests. The fact Daniel Herrera was affiliated with the Angle Group should disqualify it from working in Knox County Republican primaries to be above reproach. Very frankly, none of the other Angle Group principals, except  perhaps for Drew Lonergan, has any real experience in campaign strategy nor any real ability in running and winning campaigns. Christine Cruz, an Angle Group client and a candidate for the Knox County Commission At-Large seat currently occupied by Larsen Jay, recently held another fundraising event at Cotton-Eyed Joe’s. Toyota of Knoxville was listed as a sponsor, which is highly unusual for a business for to sponsor a campaign event. One would think a candidate’s campaign consultants would be up-to-the-minute on Tennessee’s election laws.

As the program ended, Billy Stair said there is a school of thought that Knox County Democrats think Daniel Herrera is the best thing that has happened to their party. That is something many Republicans and Democrats can agree upon. Considering the next best thing that ever happened to Democrats in Knox County was Herrera’s predecessor Randy Pace, that is saying something.


More Biden Hypocrisy

Joe Biden has banned travel to the United States from several African countries with the arrival of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Biden was highly critical of Trump when the then-president issued a travel ban to protect Americans. Have you noticed any mainstream press outlets pointing out Biden’s hypocrisy?

In fact, both Biden and Kamala Harris squalled and wrung their hands that the travel ban was racist and xenophobic, charges echoed by much of the mainstream media. Yet now things have changed, haven’t they?


Fauci Needs to Go

Dr. Tony Fauci was on Face the Nation yet again where he criticized partisanship but engaged in a bit of it himself. Smug, self-satisfied, and as honest as the sleaziest of carnival barkers, Fauci has less to do with science than Bill Nye, the “Science Guy.” Now Fauci had wrapped himself in the mantle of science, making himself not only infallible but unassailable. Dr. Tony is not to be questioned harshly for having been on every side of every question twice. To a rational person, it defies logic to ponder how anybody with a working mind can take Fauci seriously.


Another Strange Event

Christine Cruz had her fundraiser at Cotton-Eyed Joe’s and evidently, it was most notable for its absence of attendees. Evidently, Cruz’s campaign consultants have figured out a better means of keeping people away than a nest of mad hornets inside a pandemic. Cruz has to keep raising money, not only to keep up with incumbent Larsen Jay but to keep the well-oiled machine that is the Angle Group fed. Perhaps the next fundraiser will be an old-fashioned bake sale; it would probably raise more campaign cash. Surely one of the Angle Group strategists was in the PTA at some point; one can always get cupcakes from the Food City.



Merit Council Politics Costing Taxpayers a Bundle

Gina Oster, chair of the Knox County Sheriff’s Merit System Council and perennial candidate for public office, called a meeting last week. Nothing unusual about that except it seemed to be for little more than providing Oster and council member Jim Jennings the opportunity to rail against the lawsuits to force them to recuse themselves from several pending cases. Racing snails would have been to Timbuktu and back compared to the speed with which the merit council deliberates. The complaint of Martha Dooley has been delayed over and over for something like a year without ever being heard. There are the cases of former County Commissioners Ivan Harmon and Scott “Scooby” Moore who were fired by Sheriff Tom Spangler following a report by the Tennessee State Comptroller’s office which was, to put it mildly, critical of the in-house program run by the duo. Former Sheriff Jimmy “JJ” Jones, who is, in my opinion, defying the spirit of term limits yet again in seeking to regain his old office, had termed Moore and Harmon “model public servants.”

Oster and Jennings are Jones partisans in a post that is by design to be nonpolitical. The merit council’s legal counsel has explicitly and repeatedly told the members Martha Dooley has no grievance in demanding her taxpayer-funded car be returned to her. Oster and Jennings have blithely ignored their own attorney’s legal advice. In fact the only attorney Oster and Jennings seem to listen to is John Valiant. Valiant is a longtime political fixer and the merit council meetings resemble a star chamber more than a public meeting. For whatever reason, Oster and Jennings keep kicking the can down the road, using excuse after excuse not to hear the cases of Dooley, Moore and Harmon. One has to wonder what is the reason for the deliberate delay? My best guess is pure politics. Oster and Jennings are delaying to get past the May 2022 primary election. Oster is a candidate for the Knox County Commission in the Third District and Jones is challenging Sheriff Tom Spangler. Jones hopes for a restoration of the Jones –Hutchison-Trammel regime and Oster’s political alliance with that faction as well as Jennings’ longtime support for Jones, Hutchison and Trammel figures into the equation. The blubbering about supporting the men and women of the sheriff’s department to the contrary, the failure of the merit council to act is costing the taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars. Oster had the gall to say the efforts of Commissioner Kyle Ward to reform the merit council had failed to pass the county commission, which according to Gina’s twisted logic, showed the commissioners support her work and that of Jennings. As for her running for office, Oster cited Commissioner Charles Busler’s attempt to appoint board of education member Patti Bounds to the merit council as an excuse for her to continue as she wages a political campaign. No, Gina, Patti Bounds is an officeholder and a noncandidate. More to the point, not a single member of the county commission supported the appointment of Bounds aside from Busler. It’s not even apples to oranges; it’s more apples to screwdrivers. It is a reminder to those commissioners who failed to support the efforts of Kyle Ward and Larsen Jay to reform the merit council they’ve left the taxpayers with escalating costs to appease a nest of partisan hacks. Certainly time will prove Ward and Jay to have been perfectly right in demanding change and reform. It can’t come too soon.