By Steve Hunley

Knoxville has a particular wealthy elite political class that has appeared with alarming frequency during the last several election cycles.  The Haslam family and its faithful retainers have recently had a habit of contributing money for their favorite candidates.  One such candidate was Board of Education member Tracie Sanger who received about $15,000 from the Haslam family direct and collected a total in excess of $43,000, most of it from  their friends who don’t even live in her district.  These wealthy elites were also devout in their support of Superintendent Jim McIntyre and one could always tell which candidate for the Knox County Board of Education was the proposed rubber stamp candidate to support McIntyre by reading the financial disclosure lists.  Nor were the candidates confined to the Board of Education; they include contributions to candidates for county commission, city council, mayor and other state and local offices from many of the same people.  The money-bullies are aided by the Knoxville News-Sentinel, the Chamber of Commerce, and WBIR-TV who provide a reliable voice for the business elite.

Now the money-bullies are coming after Martin Daniel.  Daniel, a first term State Representative, evidently has been far too independent to suit these folks.  Instead, the Haslams and their friends are putting their money behind Daniel’s predecessor, Steve Hall.  Hall served on the City Council until he was term limited out, ran against former Mayor Mike Ragsdale and served two terms in the State House of Representatives.  If Steve Hall accomplished much during his time in state government, I did not notice what it was.  From what I could tell, Hall was merely a lockstep ally of former State Senator Stacey Campfield.  Hall never seemed particularly motivated nor productive. He seemed content to allow Stacey to lead the Campfield-Hall team. On the other hand, Martin Daniel has been a thoughtful and interesting voice in Nashville.  Martin Daniel, an attorney and successful small businessman, has been unafraid of upsetting apple carts of the establishment and telling the truth.  Daniel questioned the cost of the Office of Diversity at the University of Tennessee and aside from ultraliberals and the overly politically correct crowd, believed the office had gone too far with some of its proposals, including substituting gender-neutral pronouns for “he” and “she.”  Daniel has also questioned the management of the Knox County School system when necessary.  The job of a member of the state legislature isn’t merely to bring home more money for the Board of Education to spend and considering that local boards and systems have to comply with state law, it is appropriate for a legislator to ask questions about how that money is being spent.

Martin Daniel has been an exemplary first term legislator and has distinguished himself by his intelligence, ability and independence.  Hall has been in and out of office for decades; Martin Daniel is a true citizen-legislator.  I have heard that money is the mother’s milk of politics, but here lately it hasn’t done the money-bullies a lot of good.  Grant Standefer was awash in money in a recent school board race, yet lost badly to a far superior candidate, Jennifer Owen. Nathan Rowell had more money at his disposal than King Midas, yet was beaten like a drum by incumbent Law Director Bud Armstrong.  Buddy Pelot, another candidate supported by the establishment elite, trailed Susan Horn by 1,000 votes in the March primary.

Folks tend to see the same names appearing on the financial disclosure lists of the wealthy elite establishment supported candidates. One such name is  Randy Boyd, a businessman who is currently serving as Bill Haslam’s Commissioner of Economic Development.  We are told Boyd is being mentioned as a candidate for governor in 2018.  Of course all the mentioning of Boyd running for governor is either from Boyd himself or by Haslam allies.  Now you have a good idea where the establishment is already headed two years from now.

The wealthy elite establishment doesn’t just want rubber stamps on the Board of Education; they like them everywhere, including the state legislature.

For those readers who truly value independence and ability, they ought to look at the financial disclosure statements of the various candidates available at the Knox County Election Commission website.  If you don’t think there’s much reason to go vote in August, think again.  If you stay home, the money-bullies may well get their way.  If you want to strike a blow at the establishment, here’s your chance.

The choice between Martin Daniel and his opponents couldn’t be more clear.