West Knox district has best race

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The hottest contested legislative contest in 42 days is for the West Knoxville district where incumbent state Rep. Martin Daniel faces three opponents including former state Rep. Steve Hall whom he defeated two years ago in the GOP primary. The winner probably wins with a plurality (not a majority) of the total vote which is likely to be less than 5,500. In other words, 2,000 votes may win it for someone.

The youngest candidate is James Corcoran, 36, an attorney who lives at 5675 Eagle Crest Drive in northwest Knox County. He is married and the father of twins, James IV and Elsa, 20 months old. He and his family are members of St. George Greek Orthodox Church. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in English as well as the UT College of Law.

His wife, Anya, is also an attorney who practices law with him. He was motivated to run to assist “pregnant women who have active drug issues that need assistance for them and their yet unborn child which they are not getting.”

Corcoran says he voted for Daniel last time due to Steve Hall’s backing of Tennova going on Middlebrook Pike which Hall failed to consult the neighborhood on. Corcoran is a marathon runner. Corcoran is critical of Hall’s legislation to sell Lakeshore Park. He says he supports the Park there and other parks as well. He also called Daniel’s comments on Muhammad Ali “unfortunate.”

He supports the repeal of the Hall income tax and prefers the election of judges and the district attorneys general be nonpartisan. He says he would vote for Insure Tennessee as pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. He has the backing of many teachers thru their association.

“I appreciate the greenway system we have in Knoxville. I have run three marathons and like biking as well.

His campaign has raised $6,000 but we have to raise a lot more,” he says. He supported John Kasich in the recent GOP presidential primary but will support the Republican presidential nominee in November.

Besides Daniel, Hall and Corcoran there is also Bryan Dodson, a former aide to former state Sen. Stacey Campfield. Hall, too, is close to Campfield and actively backed him in 2014. Of the four, the contest may well end up between Daniel and Corcoran if Corcoran can raise sufficient funds to advertise. Hall has $40,000 unspent from his failed 2014 campaign.

Recently, Hall sent out a mailer accusing Daniel of wanting ISIS to recruit on the UT campus, despite Daniel denouncing ISIS. The Hall piece is only the start of a negative campaign. The attack pieces are only likely to get harsher and more frequent. Voters may turn to Corcoran if they get to know him and if he can raise funds. Corcoran has been more civil in his statements. This contest is interesting.

■  Last week there was an interesting front page story on the lack of African Americans serving in Congress from Tennessee and representation in other areas.

On the same day, Mayor Rogero and Police Chief Rausch announced Kenny Miller as the new deputy police chief to replace Nate Allen, an African American who has become police chief in Decatur, Ala.

While there is no doubt in my mind that Miller is qualified and will do an excellent job, what went unmentioned was that Knoxville no longer has an African American deputy police chief or in other high level command positions in the Police Department.

I know this is not by design and Chief Rausch would prefer it be different. He is committed to hiring minorities. However, it remains a troubling issue and concern which Mayor Rogero must address by speaking out on it and leading an effort herself to recruit minorities.

Just as Chief Allen was recruited to Decatur where he is now making $99,444 plus receiving his Knoxville city pension, Knoxville will need to recruit at the higher levels for KPD persons of color if this problem at the deputy chief level is to be solved soon. Knoxville cannot just talk the talk, it must walk the walk when it comes to African American recruitment in our uniformed services. When the Miller appointment was announced, it would have been a positive sign had the mayor also recognized publicly the absence of African Americans in the KPD leadership and renewed her commitment to solving that issue. Instead there was silence.

■  Knoxville now has a Center of Polish Culture located at 7417 Kingston Pike formally opened on June 21. The Ambassador of Poland to the U.S., Ryszard Schnepf, participated in the opening.

■  Longtime airport attorney Bruce Foster Jr. has retired after 29 years and the airport authority, after a search, has hired well-liked and indefatigable attorney Mark Mamantov, 56, to replace him. Mamantov is not likely to stay 29 years as the airport attorney, but he will do well for the time he is there.

Mamantov has chaired the board of the Knoxville Symphony and is legal counsel for KCDC. He is Latvian American. He takes his civic duties seriously.

■  First Watch, a new restaurant on Bearden Hill owned and operated by Nadine Jubran, son of UT vice chair Raja Jubran, had a soft opening the weekend of June 11-12 with diners donating $10 each for Lakeshore Park in lieu of paying for their meal. Lakeshore Park earned over $10,000 which shows the strong support Lakeshore Park has in the community. First Watch is open for breakfast and lunch only, seven days a week.

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