The Rutherford County Democratic Party fielded only five candidates for the Aug. 7 county election, but Chairman Mike Williams says he believes putting “quality” candidates on the ballot is more important than quantity.
Williams contended that in the 2008 election, Rutherford County voted for candidates simply because they had Republican beside their names on the ballot. That might work for one cycle, he said, but voters can quickly see where they went wrong, and he pointed toward what happened in the Assessor of Property’s office where Democrat Rob Mitchell defeated incumbent Republican Bill Boner after one term.
“The county really saw the mistake they made,” said Williams, a Smyrna resident.
During a Saturday caucus of the Rutherford County Democratic Party, the executive committee selected former Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officer Capt. Bill Kennedy to run for sheriff; Avent Lane for Circuit Court clerk; Pierrecia Lyons for county clerk; incumbent Judge Larry Brandon for General Sessions Judge Part III; and County Commissioner Chantho Sourinho for the District 21 seat. The party nominated no candidates for mayor, register of deeds, trustee, public defender, district attorney general, five other judicial positions and 20 other county commission seats, which will be partisan races this year.
Kennedy, who resigned from the sheriff’s office four years ago after Republican Robert Arnold won election, should have enough name recognition to win the election even though he is working as an officer in Lebanon, Williams said. Arnold served as an SRO under Kennedy’s command until Kennedy reassigned him to a jailer’s position for failing to adequately investigate a gun incident at La Vergne High School. When Arnold took office, he ordered Kennedy to a jailer’s job before Kennedy left the office.
Kennedy’s work in youth wrestling and at MTSU give him a “tremendous amount of visibility,” Williams said, adding the candidate remains a Murfreesboro resident.
“I know I had really good name recognition prior to Arnold taking office,” said Kennedy, a 19-year veteran at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office whose leadership netted four national awards for the SRO division.
Leaving the office here turned out to be a blessing, Kennedy said, because it enabled him to earn his master’s in public service at Cumberland College and become a better public servant. Kennedy is also a graduate of the FBI Academy.
“I am obviously the most experienced and educated in this group (of candidates),” Kennedy said.
Before facing Kennedy, Arnold must defeat former sheriff’s Detective Ralph Mayercik and former Chief Deputy Bob Asbury in the May 6 Republican primary. Independent candidate Jim Tramel, who was fired by Arnold and is taking legal action against the county over his dismissal, is running in the Aug. 7 election as well.
Kennedy pointed out that Arnold has a “personal history” with all of the challengers, and he contended that the sheriff “tries to bulldoze” anyone who gets in his way. The Democratic challenger noted that Arnold sought a 34 spending increase in a year the county commission raised taxes 4.1 percent and that crime jumped 27 percent in 2011.
“We are paying a whole lot more for a whole lot less,” Kennedy said.
Circuit Court clerk candidate
Lane, a technical consultant in the music field and former quality control engineer, has been active in county affairs for several years. He is involved in a lawsuit to stop expansion of a quarry in the Blackman community and is a former county commission candidate.
“I’m about being accountable and making sure things are done properly,” said Lane, noting he wants to bring quality control and quality assurance to local government. If elected, he plans to build better rapport with attorneys and streamline the court dockets to improve efficiency. The position is held by Republican Laura Bohling, who is being opposed by Lance Jenkins and Melissa Harrell in the GOP primary.
County clerk challenger
Lyons, an Oakland High and MTSU softball standout who grew up in Murfreesboro, earned a law degree from the University of Tennessee and worked as a clerk in Juvenile Judge Donna Davenport’s office. Now a placement coordinator in a division of MTSU’s College of Education, Lyons hopes to bring a different outlook to the office if she can defeat Republican incumbent Lisa Crowell.
“I feel like I will bring that new, fresh perspective to people who thought they never had a role,” said Lyons, who has an 8-year-old son.
This is her first venture into politics, and Lyons said she wants her son to see that his mother didn’t sit back and let other people dictate how society and government should be run.
General Sessions Part III
Brandon, a Vanderbilt graduate who holds a law degree, is seeking a second term as General Sessions Judge Part III.
“I’ve been a Democrat all my life. Why should I change now?” Brandon said Tuesday.
Brandon, whose court handles small claims civil cases, said his political affiliation has nothing to do with his work as a judge. His job is to gather the facts and make a decision based on the law.
“As a judge, you don’t go in (the courtroom) and uphold anything Democratic or Republican,” Brandon said.
In fact, he pointed out that his Republican opponent, Murfreesboro City Councilman Toby Gilley, was a Democrat until he changed his political affiliation after Brandon defeated him in the 2006 primary. “I honestly think that because he’s a Republican now he thinks that’s going to assure him the outcome this time,” Brandon said.
Sourinho is running for a second term on the county commission. He initially qualified as an independent, but the party persuaded him to run as a Democrat because of his longtime connection with local group, according to Williams.
The party chair said a number of Democrats are running as independents in this year’s election after the county commission election was turned into a partisan affair, despite the Democratic Party’s opposition.
Sourinho, a former high school counselor, said he made the decision after talking to several people and opted to run as a Democrat, in part, because it didn’t require him to enter a primary election.
“I feel great. I made my decision,” said Sourinho, who anchors the news for City Cable 3 in Laotian.
During his three and a half years on the commission, Sourinho said he is most proud of his support for the construction of Stewarts Creek High School and expansion of Smyrna Primary School. He serves on the commission’s Health and Education Committee and Public Works and Planning Committee.