As we predicted in this space yesterday, the campaign for the Knoxville Mayor’s office-one in which 16.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, came down to a three-way contest between former Democratic Knox County Commissioner Madeleine Rogero, moderate Democratic software developer Mark Padget, and longtime Republican Knox County political figure Ivan Harmon. It would take a candidate receiving 50% of the vote plus one-an outright majority-to avoid a November runoff. The counting went well into the night, ceasing around 11pm (give or take a few minutes) when it became clear that Rogero lead handsomely, but not enough to get a majority, and Padget would squeak just ahead of Harmon to finish second and guarantee a runoff. The count, reported WIVK radio late last night, came down to provisional ballots. The election was officially non-partisan, but people in the community know that Rogero and Padgett are Democrats and that Harmon is a Republican. Harmon suggested in the press that a few Republicans didn’t stick with him and voted for Rogero instead, guaranteeing that he would not face the more liberal Rogero in November.
From a purely mathematical perspective, Padgett does have a shot at defeating Rogero in the runoff. He has to hold his own votes and hope to get an endorsement from Harmon that might bring Harmon’s more conservative voters along, and that kind of combination in a more conservative city like Knoxville means that Rogero or her supporters-despite her sizable lead-cannot even come close to assuming she will win in November yet.
In the special Republican Primary held yesterday in the 6th Senate District due to the resignation of former Senator Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), Becky Duncan Massey, the daughter of former Knoxville Mayor and Congressman John J. Duncan Sr. prevailed over Knoxville City Councilwoman Marilyn Roddy and former interim Republican Knox County Commissioner Victoria DeFreese.
DeFreese said that she was disappointed in her personal results-she finished a weak third-but she told the News Sentinel that the low voter turnout bothered her on a far worse scale. DeFreese is right. Having lost an election, this writer can speak to the reality that the sensation you feel after putting in all of that effort is no bed of roses, but it does feel good when you know you gave it all that you had. However, if voter turnout is exceptionally low, the loss festers in the mind much longer than it should because you wonder if you might have done better if more people had just shown up.