Publisher’s Positions

By Steve Hunley

Republican Women Elect Democrat Chair

Much has been made of the results of the recent elections in Knox County and women composing, for the first time in history, a majority on the county commission.  Women hold 6 out of 11 seats on the Knox County Commission.  Terry Hill, Kim Frazier, Gina Oster and Rhonda Lee were elected as Republicans.  Dasha Lundy and Courtney Durrett were elected as Democrats.

Two of the women just elected to the Knox County Commission, Rhonda Lee and Gina Oster, were claimed by Erik Wiatr as his own candidates and he has widely taken credit for having elected them.  Wiatr is Knox County GOP Chair Daniel Herrera’s political handyman.  Herrera has recently  been maneuvering to create a job for Wiatr as the Knox County GOP’s “political director.”

What was the first thing done by the new majority on the county commission?  In a blazing expression of woman power and female solidarity, they elected Courtney Durrett as chairman and Terry Hill as vice chair.  Terry Hill hasn’t had any opposition in her last two political campaigns despite having constantly tried to get herself elected to a leadership post while a member of both the Knox County Board of Education and County Commission.  Colleagues on the board of education say Hill was not above making promises she wouldn’t and didn’t keep.  That same ability to make a promise and break it is apparently still part of Terry Hill’s political bag of tricks.  According to our sources, Hill promised her support to Richie Beeler to remain chairman of the Knox County Commission.  Called out for voting for a Democrat at a recent meeting of the Karns Republican Club, Terry Hill simply stammered and gibbered.

Hill finally managed it and in the process appears to have drawn a formidable challenger in the Republican primary for 2024.  According to those familiar with what occurred, the deal to elect Courtney Durrett as chair was brokered by Kim Frazier and Terry Hill.

It was four Republican women, who in their very first vote, elected a Democrat to serve as the county commission’s presiding officer.  Local Democrats are, as might be expected, happy; Republicans, not so much.

Knox County Republican Party Chairman Daniel Herrera and his ally Erik Wiatr are not from around here.  Herrera has run for office in just about every place he’s lived for more than a month. When on the ballot, he has lost every race and not by a little bit.  Finally, he got himself elected chairman of the Knox County Republican Party after Erik Wiatr and the Roving Patriot PAC helped to gin up a crowd for him.  As they roved from place to place and Randy Pace’s handpicked chair of the Credentials Committee had never even voted in a Knox County Republican primary, who knows if Wiatr’s crowd lived in Knox County or voted here?

Kim Frazier, Rhonda Lee, Gina Oster and Terry Hill, all elected as Republicans, voted to put Courtney Durrett in as the chair of the Knox County Commission.

There are rumors floating about that Daniel Herrera has patted some of them on the back.  Certainly, more than a week after the event, there has been no scathing press release from the GOP chair denouncing the actions of the Republican women on the commission.  There has been no fiery call to unite the party and for the ladies to come home politically.  The fact there has been nothing but silence coming from Herrera’s camp certainly does nothing but lend credence to the rumors he is privately patting the women on the back rather than chastising them.

At this point, it seems safe to say that there is not going to be any denunciation by either Herrera or Erik Wiatr.

Also keep in mind, in the document being circulated to install Wiatr as the Knox County GOP’s “political director,” part of the job description for the part-time employee was to ride herd over all elected officials.  We’ve seen how effective Herrera and Wiatr are now.  Waitr’s stock in trade as a strategist is to denounce the other candidate as not a real Republican or a real conservative, yet his candidates voted for a real Democrat. Hypocrisy alert!

Frazier, the face and unceasing voice of anti-development in Knox County, took a stab at incumbent Mayor Glenn Jacobs and is already off and marching on her trek to become mayor herself some say.  Others point to the fact Frazier had the vocal and financial backing of a number of Democrats inside a Republican primary.

Oster, running as a Republican, was elected by a margin of only 89. She occupies a district that is trending to flip in favor of Democrats.  Having run as a conservative and Republican to the marrow of her very bones, Gina Oster has failed to pick up any support from Democrats, but likely alienated some inside her own party.  It is especially notable considering how she and Wiatr had questioned the Republicanism of Eddie Mannis two years ago.  It’s a very shaky start to her tenure on the county commission.

Rhonda Lee has been pestering Glenn Jacobs to nominate her own personal choices to serve on the board of directors for the Hallsdale-Powell Utility District, which the mayor has resisted.  Casting her vote for a Democrat, her very first vote after taking the oath of office, probably isn’t going to endear her to Jacobs or 7th District voters.

Herrera, who has constantly overlooked Erik Wiatr running primary campaigns against other Republicans, uttered not so much as a peep.  Wiatr, himself a former Democrat and Green Party activist in Chicago, has distinguished himself by running harsh campaigns such as that against Commissioner Larsen Jay.  The rap against Commissioner Jay by Wiatr’s crowd was Jay wasn’t a “real” Republican.  Jay voted for a Republican to serve as chairman of the Knox County Commission, while both of the candidates whose campaigns Wiatr ran voted for a Democrat.  Neither Herrera nor Wiatr have a shred of credibility left as to “real” Republicans.  Nor do they have the right to sling the accusation of calling anyone a RINO (Republican In Name Only) as they never opened their mouths when it happened inside their own house.  Among those some of the Herrera crowd has labeled as RINOS are Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Congressman Tim Burchett, which is preposterous.  Have any of the four commissioners who installed a Democrat as chair been called Republicans In Name Only by that same crowd?  Not so far as I know.  They’ve been stone silent. Double standard?

Nor to my knowledge has any member of the Herrera crowd, including his mentor, former Chair Randy Pace, uttered any complaint about four Republican women installing a Democrat as chair of the county commission. I guess this is a case of “do as I say and not as I do.”


City Council Abortion Resolution and Saving Trees

A resolution about abortion took up some space on the city council’s agenda last week.  I would be among the first to agree the state legislature needs to revisit the issue as it makes no sense for the issue to be all or nothing.

The abortion resolution consumed a timely portion of the city council agenda as they had no more pressing concerns after Mayor Indya Kincannon crafted a compromise allowing the city to remove only one aging tree in the Cradle of County Music Park and perhaps relocating the $500,000 monstrosity we are told is a sculpture.  Clearly, all “art” is subjective, although nobody has quite explained why the taxpayers of Knoxville are busy collecting art.  Evidently, Knoxville’s taxpayers can afford pricey art as inflation rages, Kincannon and the council raise taxes and then announce police officers will no longer be doing accident reports.  In effect, the city raised taxes and cut an essential service.

There were several impassioned pleas made before the council as to the need for abortions.  One lady made such an appeal urging the city council members to support the resolution, which had no force of law and changed nothing not even an iota, noting how terrible it would be to force some mothers to carry babies in their wombs without a brain.  It was an odd place to make such an argument as obviously some were born and if not exactly thrived, managed to get themselves elected mayor and members of the city council.

Some have risen even higher, wandering the halls of Congress and in fact, one even sits in the White House.