Is Rogero eyeing Duncan’s seat?

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

State Sen. Doug Overbey, who is looking at a 2018 race for governor, says he “has strong reservations” on philosophical grounds over indexing the proposed gas tax increase without legislative action as recommended by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Indexing gas to the Consumer Price Index would place a gas tax increase on automatic pilot. This appears contrary to what most principled conservative lawmakers would favor in terms of voting each time a tax increases. It appears this provision will be dropped if the gas tax has a chance to pass.

Mayor Madeline Rogero wrote a column in the News Sentinel urging people to attend a meeting held last week at Whittle Springs Middle School on Obamacare and current efforts to repeal, replace and/or repair it.

The city does not run a health department. Knox County does. Other than Rogero being concerned as a citizen about the issue, there is no duty as city mayor tied to the current hot debate over health care. However, Rogero has made this her signature issue. County Mayor Tim Burchett could not attend this meeting.

Rogero acknowledges that some changes in Obamacare may be needed, but she never voiced such a thought while President Obama was in the White House. With the attention given recently to U.S. Rep. John Duncan not attending town hall meetings on this topic, and with Rogero going so public advertising this meeting hosted by groups backing Obamacare, the question arises of what is Rogero up to?

Her column, which is a not so subtle criticism of Duncan and our two U.S. senators, places Rogero squarely in the conversation as a 2018 Democratic congressional candidate. The recent well-attended Women’s March and continuing debate on this, plus President Trump unifying Democrats as Obama used to unify Republicans, raises the prospect that Democrats for once will field a serious congressional candidate.

Democrats in the Second Congressional District have not had a credible congressional nominee since former Revenue Commissioner Dudley Taylor ran in 1988. Rogero would be credible and she will continue one more year as mayor to Dec. 19, 2019, if she lost the race.

Rogero may also be hoping there will a potential hotly contested GOP primary between Duncan and Burchett, which will leave the winner weakened from the intraparty battle when the general election occurs.

Bottom line: Keep an eye on Rogero as she quietly but deliberately makes moves to run for Congress in 2018 if Democrats can raise money for media needed to prevail. She has over a year until it is time to qualify.

State Rep. Eddie Smith has introduced a bill to make city elections partisan. His Senate sponsor is not one of the three Knox senators but Dolores Gresham from Somerville in West Tennessee, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. It would not affect the five council elections this year.

Reaction from several council members and candidates has been negative. Candidate Harry Tindell says “there is no need to fix what is not broken.” Candidate Wayne Christensen opposes it, too. Council members Finbarr Saunders and Marshall Stair oppose it.

Smith says it is designed to increase voter participation in city elections, which admittedly is low.

New UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport has to pick a successor to Margie Nichols as vice chancellor for communications. Interviews for this were done a few months back and were abandoned after Jimmy Cheek retired.

The finalists were not from around here. In this spot especially, it is essential this new chancellor, who does not know Knoxville or Tennessee well, have a smart media adviser who knows Knoxville backward and forward to avoid the missteps which plagued Dave Hart. Jacob Rudolph, the interim head, actually has been here several years and knows his way around.

Davenport in her meeting with lawmakers has impressed them as facile and smooth in her language and demeanor. However, people will be looking at her for more than words but actual action. A smart media adviser who knows the area would be invaluable.

There is no doubt Nichols advised Cheek that the Lady Vols name change would trigger outrage across Tennessee, but Cheek and DiPietro did not listen to Nichols. They backed Hart. The result was stunning. It may be an issue in the contest for governor as the governor is a voting member of the UT board of trustees. It even manifested itself at the Pat Summitt funeral, where no establishment official from UT such as the president, AD or chancellor spoke at the services for the nationally known and admired coach.

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