Wed
Mar 29 2006
01:42 pm

The Tennessee Supreme court today upheld the constitutionality of term limits in Shelby County. This could also apply to Knox County elected officials, including 12 of 19 county commissioners who could now be ineligible for reelection. This would have a huge impact on the upcoming county primaries in May and the general elections in August.

A 1978 amendment to the Tennessee Constitution allows counties to establish their own charters, including rules regarding qualifications for holding county office. Shelby County and Knox County are the only two counties with charters enacting term limits, which voters in both counties approved in 1994.

The latest lawsuit before the Tennessee Supreme Court involved three Shelby county commissioners who argued that term limits are unconstitutional and are not authorized by the legislation establishing county charters. A lower court agreed.

Today, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the lower court's ruling, saying that "a term limit provision contained in a county charter is authorized by Tennessee Code Annotated section 5-1-210(4)" and that the legislation is valid under the state constitution.

No word yet from Knox County officials on what this means for Knox County. This could be a potential bombshell, depending on exactly what the Knox County charter says.

Stay tuned, this will get interesting...

UPDATE: A usually reliable source says in comments that 13 12 candidates for county commission are being removed from the Knox County ballot. I called the elections office to try to get confirmation. They said I'd have to talk to the administrator, but he was tied up talking to TV reporters.

UPDATE: Our highly reliable beyond any question or doubt source says in comments that the following county commissioners would be term limited: Diane Jordan, David Collins, Billy Tindell, Wanda Moody, John Schmid, Phil Guthe, John Griess, Mike McMillan, Mark Cawood, Mary Lou Horner, John Mills and Larry Clark. (Ed. note: if the decision applies to Knox County, that is.)

UPDATE: The ruling could also apply to Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison. Hutchison successfully fought off earlier lawsuits, arguing that the charter term limits did not apply to "constitutional officers" because it is prohibited by the constitution. The Tennessee Supreme Court decision today seems to contradict that by ruling that term limits established by county charters are valid and constitutional. Knox County's charter term limit rule apparently applies to (can't find a copy online - anybody?) "all county officials."

UPDATE: Michael Silence has an update at his blog. He has been in contact with State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson who says "no definitive decision" has been made regarding how this affects Knox County. State and local election officials are working with the state Attorney General, and the County Law Director is involved. There is a Knox County Election Commission meeting scheduled for 4:30 PM today.

UPDATE: Michael Silence has another update (same link as above) from Knox County Election Administrator Greg Mackay, who says no decisions have been made, and that "speculation of names being removed from the ballot is not accurate," referring to the above. (At the time of this posting, Mackay had not responded to my e-mail asking about ballot changes. He was not available for comment when I called earlier.)

UPDATE: Greg Mackay responded to our questions about whether the election commission had received instructions earlier today to remove names from the ballot. He said "nothing has been done yet" and that "the EC meets at 4:30".

Stay tuned...

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: WBIR news just reported at 5:01 PM from the election commission meeting that County Law Director Mike Moyers says the ruling does apply to Knox County and that it appears right now anyway that names will be removed from the ballot. The meeting is still underway.

LAST UPDATE: (For now, on this thread anyway.) The KNS is now reporting that the Knox County Election Commission plans to meet with the affected county commission candidates to make sure it is OK with them to remove their names from the ballots as per the law and today's Tennessee Supreme Court ruling upholding it.

Unbelievable. It no longer appears there is government in Knox County by the people, for the people. It's government by the powers that be, for the powers that be.

297
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Car Guy's picture

It is my understanding that

It is my understanding that the county law director today has instructed the Knox County election commission take 13 names off of the ballot. However I'm seeking further confirmation and will pass on when notified.

R. Neal's picture

Just called the elections

Just called the elections office to confirm, they said I'd have to talk to the administrator, but he was talking to TV reporters. Oh my!

Car Guy's picture

Correction, a source said it

Correction, a source said it was 12 folks to be removed. Apparently it does not apply to the sheriff, but it is applying to commission.

Car Guy's picture

Here's a thought if these

Here's a thought if these folks get removed from the ballot:

Some of the now term-limited incumbents were running unopposed. That means if they're off the ballot, would the election commission have to re-open the qualifying deadline to allow folks to run? If so, and if some term-limited folks wanted to (one might say) beat the term limit issue, they could try to switch seats to run for or get their spouses to run for their seat.

This scenario could apply even in situations where a newly term-limited incumbent did have opposition; they'd simply try to switch the seat they were running for.

R. Neal's picture

That could get pretty wild

That could get pretty wild and crazy. In one article I was reading, it said the guys in Shelby County, even if elected, would not be eligible to serve as of Sept. 1st, and the County Commission would appoint replacements. Nothing was said about extending or reopening the qualifying deadlines.

Car Guy's picture

Here's the 12 who I think

Here's the 12 who I think would be term limited:

Diane Jordan, David Collins, Billy Tindell, Wanda Moody, John Schmid, Phil Guthe, John Griess, Mike McMillan, Mark Cawood, Mary Lou Horner, John Mills and Larry Clark.

 BTW, SKB "usually correct source"? ;-)

Bill Young's picture

term limits

This is big...anybody else reporting about it?

R. Neal's picture

Michael Silence has the AP

Michael Silence has the AP report on his blog, and the KNS and WBIR both have the AP report on the front page of their websites. THe Chattanoogan has a more in depth article (linked to above) and the Memphis Commercial Appeal has something. Nothing else I can find so far, and no details yet (other than our reliable source) on how it affects Knox County...

Bill Young's picture

term limits

The Election Commossion has a meeting today @ 4:30 & will vote on new machines per Help America Vote Act.

R. Neal's picture

Fortuitous timing for that

Fortuitous timing for that meeting. After the vote, I wonder if it will turn into an "all-nighter" on term-limits?

Bill Young's picture

all nighter

I wonder if Mackay wishes he was back in Kazakhstan?

metulj's picture

I got an e-mail that

I got an e-mail that Hutchison is out too? Is this correct?

Bill Young's picture

sheriff

Right now,the ruling is being defined very narrowly,to mean the county commission & not the constitutional offices,Mayor,Sheriff,trustee,county clerk,register,assessor.However,we passed term-limits on the constitutional officers as well.I believe,if the court ruling stands the same reasons for term-limiting county commissioners will apply to everyone.

Car Guy's picture

As for Tim Hutchinson, I

As for Tim Hutchinson, I would bet that Herb M. has a suit filed perhaps as early as tomorrow trying to make the court's decision stick to the sheriff as well. That shouldn't shock anyone, however.

Now if someone is going to file suit saying it applies to judges, who can decide that case? It probably wouldn't be a judge who would be impacted on way or the other by his/her ruling. Would it go out of state to be heard or only be heard by judges appointed by the governor?

But the hard question for those on county commission who may try to fight getting taken off the ballot (or try to switch and run for another commission seat) is this: an overwhelming number of voters voted in term limits and the state supreme court upheld it too, so what's it going to take for you to get it and leave?

 

Bill Young's picture

term limits

The judges & the District attorney aren't included in county term-limits because they are defined as state officials.Herb represents Bee Deselm in her term-limit law suit concerning the sheriff.

tennesseevaluesauthority's picture

Write-In Campaigns Anyone?

So, does this open the door for some quickly organized write-in campaigns for some of those uncontested seats? I wonder if I could talk Eleanor into letting me run in the 2nd district. Heh.

Bill Young's picture

There will be a meeting of

There will be a meeting of the Election Commission @ 4 on Friday.Not sure where.At todays meeting the Commission autherized the Chair to hire council asap.There will be lawsuits if the Commission follows the advisement of the State's Attorney General to remove the dirty dozen,on Friday.The Attorney General also advises that for those removed that have NO PRIMARY opposition a new qualifying date will be set for candidates to run in those primarys.That would be races that Jordan,Collins,Tindell,Guthe,Griess,Cawood & Clarke are/were running with no primary opposition.Friday is D-Day on this thing because of time it takes to change the ballot for early-vote,which starts April 12th.

Anonymous's picture

GREAT DAY !!!!,GET RID OF

GREAT DAY !!!!,GET RID OF THE OLD .HANGING ON FOREVER WITH THIER OUTDATED IDEALS AND GOOD OLD BOY/GIRL SYSTEM. CAN PEOPLE NOT REALIZE WHEN THEY BECOME OBSOLETE ?. THIS SHOULD OF BEEN DONE 20 YEARS AGO,I AM SORRY BUT YOU CAN NEVER KEEP UP WITH THE NEW IF YA STILL HANGING ON TO THE OLD. OLD POLITICAL CRONIES GOOD BYE, NOW SPEND MORE OF OUR MONEY DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO KEEP YOUR JOB,WHILE HUNDREDS OF JOBS GO BY AND OFF TO OTHER PLACES,AND THEY HAVE NO RECOURSE. GIVE THEM ALL A WATCH AND TELL THEM THANKS. APATHY RUNS GOVERNMENT WHEN SAME OLD PEOPLE CONTINUE TO REFUSE TO BELIEVE THEY ARE THRU, TIME SERVED AND MOVE ON. GO VOLUNTEER AT A UNITED WAY AGENCY,IF YA REALLY WANT TO SERVE THE PUBLIC.

Car Guy's picture

Think of all the problems

Think of all the problems. Just to name a few:

1. a sample ballot has to be put in the paper before early voting starts, listing the candidates on the ballot. That deadline is set by state law, so what if the issue of who is on the ballot doesn't shake out by then?

2. endorsements: whether it is the Sentinel, metropulse, FOP or whatever, do they say "we endorse candidate X, but if they aren't on the ballot, then we endorse candidate Y"?

3. if Mark Cawood is going to thumb his nose at everyone on this issue and try to get his wife to run, how will this be received? What about other commissioners who are mulling over doing the same?

Anonymous's picture

Newcomer (aka "Farner") (5 years) to Knoxville Agrees!

HERE HERE!!!!

Anonymous's picture

Clarification

HERE HERE! to "GET RID OF....."  Its about time Knoxville gets a shakedown.  NOW we can get somewhere!!!! Whatever chaos this creates, its better than the status quo.... Growth is difficult, it hurts sometimes, but we will certainly be better for it.....  PRAYER (MEDITATION, whatever) WORKS!

JustJohnny's picture

.....

Growth is difficult, it hurts sometimes, but we will certainly be better for it..... PRAYER (MEDITATION, whatever) WORKS!

...Good single-malt Scotch whisky for around $20

Anonymous's picture

That works too!

Is that a propositionWink

Anonymous's picture

This is not going to be a victory for democracy

Here's what you don't understand.

There was a meeting after the meeting Friday, presided over by Ragsdale's flunky Mike Arms, where the seats that will be vacated by these stupid, vain incumbents were divvied up among Ragsdale's loyalists and will be installed by the district GOP executive committees.  Therefore, a vote for John Griess is a vote for Brian Hornback; a vote for John Mills is a vote for Steve Hunley; a vote for Phil Guthe is a vote for Ed Shouse.

Are the people going to let this happen?

Anon.'s picture

And a vote for Mary Lou

And a vote for Mary Lou Horner is a vote for R. Larry Smith, despite what Horner thinks.

Watch Mary Lou pledge her undying love to Ragsdale on the Sentinel web site multimedia. If she ever figured out that Ragsdale was going to cut her throat and back her bitter enemy R. Larry Smith, rather than letting Horner pick her own successor, she'd go nuts.

WestKnoxProf's picture

If Moody is out it is great news!

I support any decision that ousts Moody.  I am tired of paying for her little temper tantrum with the sheriff.  The whole commission could be kicked out as far as I am concerned.  I moved here in 2000 and have never seen such a backward thinking group of legislators in my life.  Their motto seems to be "let Sevier County have it, we don't need it".  Look at what Chattanooga has done to revitalize their downtown and you can see what Knoxville, and Knox County, have missed due to these rubes.  I come from an area that is considered to be more "backward" than Tennessee, but you sure couldn't prove it with this commission.

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