KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe is calling out what he sees as an attempt to inject partisanship into city government. It comes in response to the Knox County GOP recently paying to send a mailer to voters in Knoxville’s 1st district. The mailer attacks Councilman Tommy Smith and associates him with President Joe Biden; however, it does not officially endorse a candidate.
Ashe said, to his knowledge, this is the first time funds from a county party have been used to impact city elections. “There’s a reason that, for 70 or 80 years, it has not been a partisan contest. City issues like paving streets, housing, jobs, they’re not ideological partisan issues. They’re pragmatic issues. There’s not a Republican or Democratic way to pave a street. You either pave it don’t pave it,” Ashe said.
Ashe hopes we’ll see a dip in partisanship and a spike in voter turnout in the weeks ahead. “I have great confidence in the voters of the city. They’ll see through this and I think they’ll vote for the candidate they think will best represent them,” Ashe added.
Knox County GOP Chair, Daniel Herrera, said party involvement in city elections was part of his platform when running for party leadership. He acknowledged this is likely the first time a county political party has invested funds toward criticizing a city candidate, but said they plan to do more in the weeks ahead, including setting up a phone bank.
“I ran on a message that I would get involved in city elections and we won in a landslide. Looking at our support, our membership growth, and how many people are attending our fundraisers, that’s the message our members want. And we’re going to deliver,” Herrera said.
Both the county GOP and the Knox County Democratic Party post content on their social media accounts critical of particular candidates; however, KCDP Chair, Matt Shears, noted they do not endorse candidates or spend money on city races.
Councilman Tommy Smith, representing the city’s 1st district, said the city faces many needs including more investment in the urban wilderness, more sidewalks in neighborhoods, safety upgrades on Chapman Highway, and small businesses in the Vestal community. “Partisanship doesn’t get us those things,” he said.
Smith said he sees the city council as an opportunity to serve the people, rather than the party, and remove partisan lenses and truly vote for the best person for the job. He sees the job as knowing the needs of the community and providing services.
“We passed broadband,” Smith said. “We did some really big things as part of city council and none of them have been partisan.”