Jul 16 2006
05:40 am

Many in Blount County feel that the outcome of the mayor's race is preordained, a view that Republican candidate Jerry Cunningham also appears to hold judging by his refusal to debate Democratic candidate Joe Gallagher.

Not so fast, says a scrappy Joe Gallagher. Yesterday, the Maryville Daily Times reported a confrontation between the two at a Chamber of Commerce candidate mixer. According to the article, it seems Gallagher handed Cunningham a flyer challenging him to a debate. The flyer said:

"I have always admired the U.S. Marine Corps. Never met a Marine who refused to stand up to a challenge. Until now ... . Where are you, Jerry, the Marine? Let's discuss Blount County's future and inform voters before Aug. 3."

Cunningham countered by bringing up a old, long forgotten and since corrected clerical error involving a $100 check Gallagher mistakenly deposited to the Kerry Campaign account instead of the Blount Co. Democratic Party, the intended recipient. (Gallagher says there was confusion because the check was received at the Kerry Campaign Headquarters. Gallagher was Kerry's Blount Co. campaign director at the time.)

At first glance, Gallagher's taunting of Cunningham seemed ill-advised, particularly with regard to the appearance of mocking Cunningham's military service. A former U.S. Marine is probably the last guy you want to provoke.

But, recall Cunningham's response to the League of Women Voters candidate survey, the only substantive public accounting to date of where the candidates stand on the issues. In response to the question "What unique qualities, besides the above leadership skills, do you have to contribute to this office?", Cunningham said:

The unique quality which I possess that none of the other candidates possess stems from my 13 month service in Vietnam in the United States Marine Corps. Under the kinds of situations faced there, a person learns a lot about himself when tested under the trying circumstances of war. I have learned to appreciate and cherish each day that I have been allowed to live and to serve my Maker, my family, and my fellow citizens.

So it would appear that Cunningham made his military service an issue when he listed it as the only unique quality, other than leadership skills, that he will bring to the office.

There is no doubt that the patriotic citizens of Blount County, Democrat and Republican alike, honor and respect Mr. Cunningham's service to his country, as they do the sacrifices made by all our veterans. But Gallagher is simply challenging Cunningham to serve his fellow citizens by facing the voters in a public debate on the issues, a reasonable circumstance under which to test any candidate for public office.

Gallagher also showed that Blount County Democrats aren't going to just roll over and play dead while the preordained status-quo candidate waltzes into office without a fight. This is an admirable quality for a Democrat these days, especially in Blount County.

In related news, here's an interesting article about an interesting guest speaker at a Gallagher rally yesterday. And this letter to the editor should be required reading for all Blount County voters.

Satcey's picture

Blount Dems

The Blount Dems had a coup a couple of years ago to get rid of the old guard who filed a report on Joe. From what I've heard their old Party was worse than Knoxville's. At least this is drwaing interest in the race. I want to see Joe and Joerry wrestle. Stacey

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