Reasons for Martin Daniel’s win

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

State Rep. Martin Daniel surprised most observers with his strong win for renomination in the GOP primary last week. He more than doubled his victory margin from two years ago. Despite missteps over the past four months which generated countless stories, he prevailed. Why?

First, his major opponent, former state Rep. Steve Hall, whom he had ousted in 2014, was back again, and few people wanted him back. Hall had little electoral appeal.

Second, the next major opponent, James Corcoran, came on strong toward the end of the campaign but lacked funding early on to advertise his candidacy. Had the small but wealthy group backing Hall placed their money on Corcoran instead, he might have pulled it off. Corcoran made a favorable impression. He was calm and reasonable. He was weakened by only pushing one issue, and his political instincts were not targeted.

Martin Daniel
Martin Daniel

Third, Daniel was the only candidate with an effective ground game. He was out going door to door for two months in the worst heat of the summer. Hall was not able to do this, and Corcoran was tied down with his law practice. Daniel also had phone banks and human waves at major traffic intersections, which Mayor Rogero used to do.

Fourth, many people liked Daniel challenging UT on repealing the Lady Vols name, the silliness of the UT diversity office on gender pronouns and Christmas plus expensive settlements on Title IX lawsuits exceeding $5 million. While the UT establishment hated Daniel for it, the rank and file alumni and community outnumbered the top folks.

Fifth, Daniel was willing to self-fund much of his campaigns both this year and in 2014. He still faces Democratic opponent Brandi Price in November.

Expect to see Daniel more targeted in the next two years and less distracted by side issues. He will be more careful in what he says and does.

Corcoran did well too and has a political future if he wants it. He is already being mentioned as a candidate to replace Brenda Palmer on City Council next year as she is term-limited. Hall, who was once mentioned for council, is now damaged, and Ivan Harmon will not run as it means him forgoing a sizeable city pension if he serves on City Council. Corcoran made a positive name for himself.

■  Both County Commissioner-elect Hugh Nystrom and his Democratic opponent Marleen Davis carried their home precincts. Nystrom won Deane Hill Rec Center 421 to 160 for Davis, while Davis beat Nystrom in Sequoyah by 323 to 291 in unofficial returns. Nystrom won overall with a significant 58 percent of the vote in his West Knoxville district. Davis is already being mentioned as a City Council candidate next year to replace term-limited Duane Grieve, but she would not have the field to herself if she runs.

■  Primary returns show the next close contest in Knox County will be between former state Rep. Gloria Johnson and incumbent state Rep. Eddie Smith. Johnson outpolled Smith 1,638 to 1,423 in the entire district.

She beat Smith in traditionally GOP-leaning Sequoyah 281 to 258 as well as at Bearden Elementary, 145-83.

Johnson, even unopposed, worked the primary with yard signs and personal activities. Smith was not active in the primary and the results show it. Expect local Democrats, led by Mayor Rogero, to go all out to beat Smith this fall. Johnson is helped by having Trump leading the GOP ticket in this closely-divided district. Gov. Bill Haslam’s PAC has given $6,000 to Smith and it will be interesting to see if the governor, who is popular in the district, campaigns personally for Smith this fall.

■  Doug Harris, Knox County school board chair, departs the school board in two weeks, and a month later departs Knoxville for a five-month around-the-world personal trip with his wife, Carla, visiting 25 countries.

This is a trip Harris has planned for months and will truly be a fascinating time. He will have a blog where friends and interested persons can follow his travels. He will be in demand to show slides upon his return.

■  State Sen. Richard Briggs, who likes to sail, spent the month after the legislative session sailing in the north Atlantic, from Shetlands and Orkney Islands in Scotland to the very north of Norway where it borders Russia. He is back home now.

■  The new Public Works complex for the city of Knoxville is ready for occupancy and will have tenants on or after Aug. 15 as part of engineering and public works departments moves into the building off Middlebrook Pike next to the old facilities on Lorraine Street. This new, up-to-date building is needed and a nice addition to the city inventory. A formal opening has not been announced.

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