The Knox County Republican Party continued to take control of local government during Thursday night's election, this time dipping into its judicial branch.
GOP candidates easily won the county's seven partisan races, including several contests that left two long-time and well-respected judges – both Democrats – on the outside looking in.
Further, more shakeup on the non-partisan school board took place as the balance of power appeared to shift, if only slightly, away from the system's administration.
Here's what happened in the three fee office races:
- Ed Shouse, a county commissioner and former Knoxville city councilman, will take over the Trustee's Office in early September, serving as the county's top tax collector. He defeated Democratic challenger Jim Berrier, garnering almost 75 percent of the vote.
- County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr., also a former commissioner, retained his seat, beating Democrat Mike Padgett, securing 71 percent of the vote. Padgett previously held the office, which collects fees for various licenses, for roughly 20 years.
- Incumbent Register of Deeds Sherry Witt, whose office records billions of dollars' worth of real estate transactions each year, easily defeated Donald Wiser, an independent challenger. She secured 76 percent of the vote.
"Our message has resonated with voters over the last six years of cutting staff, cutting budgets, redoing offices, being more efficient, open and honest," Arnett said. "My opponent ran a pretty negative campaign and I think people are tired of that, so we're looking for four more years of progress."
Many political observers expected the GOP party to continue its stronghold on the fee offices. However, there were some surprises in the courtrooms.
Clarence Pridemore, an attorney since only 2011, defeated incumbent Chancellor Daryl Fansler, who has heard more than 25,000 cases since taking over one of the county's three chancery courts in 1998.
In addition, William "Bill" Ailor, a local attorney and Republican, beat Harold Wimberly Jr., a Democrat and the incumbent Division 2 circuit court judge, a seat he's held for decades.
"It was clearly a big Republican turnout and they voted Republican," said Mike Cohen, president of Cohen Communications.
Democratic political consultant Clay Crownover agreed, saying that sometimes "you cannot beat the letter until there are some changes within the leadership of this county," referring to the "R" for Republican on an election ballot.
He added: "Knox County just elected two judges that have heard a combined zero cases in the courts that they were just elected to."
In other judicial races:
- Local attorney Scott Green, who used to work in the county District Attorney General's Office, defeated local prosecutor Leland Price, a Democrat, for the Division 3 criminal court judge seat. Incumbent Mary Beth Leibowitz, also a Democrat, is retiring at the end of the term.
- Greg McMillan beat Daniel Kidd, a Democrat, for the Division 4 circuit court judge post. Incumbent Bill Swann opted not to run again.
- Incumbent Patricia Long, a Republican, easily beat Democrat George Underwood Jr for the Division 3 general sessions court judge seat.
SCHOOL BOARD MAKEOVER
Superintendent Jim McIntyre and a number of Board of Education members came under fire this year from residents, teachers and students who were upset over evaluations and testing.
Many accused them of not listening.
That's expected to change at least somewhat as political newcomer Terry Hill, who has questioned a number of McIntyre's initiatives, defeated Sandra Rowcliffe, one of the administration's key supporters, on Thursday night.
Rowcliffe will join Amber Rountree and Pattie Lou Bounds, who each won races in the May primaries, on the nine-member board.
Combined with Mike McMillan, a board member who often found himself on opposite sides of McIntyre, the combination could make for more interesting meetings, some officials said.
"There's significant change to the board and with that change hopefully we'll have a board that asks more questions instead of letting things get automatically pushed through," said Rountree.
The administration, though, still has major support as incumbent Glorida Deathridge on Thursday beat Marshall Walker for the 1st District post. And, in May, Lynne Fugate, the Board of Education's current chairwoman, retained her 4th District seat after securing a majority of the vote against two other challengers.
SOME AUTOMATIC WINNERS
Overall, 34 county posts were technically up for election including 16 judge and chancellor seats. However, many of the seats were decided during the Republican Primary in May.
For example, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Circuit Court Clerk Cathy Shanks (formerly Quist), Public Defender Mark Stephens, and 10 judges didn't face opposition, so they automatically won Thursday night.
Further, no one challenged Charme Knight, a county prosecutor, for the district attorney general seat. Knight, a Republican, will replace long-time Democrat and DA Randy Nichols, who will retire at the end of the term.
Sheriff Jimmy "J.J. Jones and incoming Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond also each defeated a number of opponents in May.
In addition, four commission races were settled last spring.
And, another 10 judicial races were settled at the time