Tell 'em There's a New Sheriff in Town

If you were to ask all the Knox County Republican candidates who got calls from Gov. Don Sundquist after the May primary to please stand up, everybody but Lillian Bean would keep their seats. GOP faithful all up and down the party ticket were disappointed to hear that The Gov confined his post-election communications to commiserating with Big Lil on the occasion of her landslide loss to political newcomer Cathy Quist, who learned that even sharing a common syllable with the big guy can't buy her any love. Sundquist mouthpiece Beth Fortune confirmed that her boss was "sorry Lillian lost. They've been friends a long time..."

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Meanwhile, those left standing have chosen courthouse curmudgeon Ray Hill chairman of the Knox County GOP ticket for the general election. That fragrance in the air will be the odor of scorched earth.

Inside Baseball

The affable deputy to the mayor of Knoxville may be about to start working harder for that $82,000 a year if the most recent Fountain City Town Hall meeting is a sign of things to come. Deputy Gene Patterson was telling funny Bill Williams stories when city councilwoman Carlene Malone told him that Mike Keith, on his afternoon AM 990 Sports Talk show, broke the story that the plan to build the Smokies a new baseball stadium downtown under the interstate ramp had come undone—way back in March.

Patterson nodded.

"What did you know, and when did you know it?" asked Malone, framing a question that will probably be asked a bunch of times by a bunch of people at the next County Commission meeting, if not sooner.

The Hardball Approach

It's too late to legislate and too early to start the '99 mayoral campaign, so it's not surprising that busyboy Bud Gilbert has found something to occupy his time. Gilbert, who wound up an 8-year career as a state senator a few weeks ago, expended considerable energy attempting to rein in the power of Capitol Hill influence peddlers. Bob Rochelle, a Lebanon Democrat who has served a lifetime as a state senator, expended considerable energy attempting to rein in Gilbert.

Rochelle is up for re-election. Gilbert has time on his hands.

So guess what:

About a week after the General Assembly shut down in Nashville, the Wilson County Republican Party had a fundraising dinner. Gilbert made an appearance as a special guest.

And made a speech.

And said, "We have a very serious problem in Wilson County, and his name is Bob Rochelle, [a man who]...has done more harm to the cause of good government and ethics than anyone else in the state Senate..."

Also present at the dinner was Rochelle's Republican opponent, Phillip Warren, son-in-law of the Cracker Barrel family.

Diary of a Campaign (Short Version)

One day last summer, in the office of Knox County Law Director Richard Beeler (as reported by two reliable sources):

Beeler complains of practices in the offices of Circuit, General Sessions, and Juvenile Court Clerk Lillian Bean to Cathy Quist, a deputy county attorney: "I wish somebody'd run against her."
Quist: "How about me?"
Beeler: "OK!"

Next day, in the office of Sheriff Tim Hutchison:
Quist: "I'm going to run against Lillian."
Hutchison: "OK."

July 1997 in the Lions Club building, Fountain City Park:
Quist walks into a political reception with her daughter Kirsten and says she's going to run against Bean. There's disbelief, skepticism. Some people avoid talking to her, especially when Bean is looking. This will happen frequently during the next 10 months, as the Quists make the rounds of Republican clubs. One of the richest guys in town hangs up on someone who calls to ask him to contribute to Quist. The country club set turns out for a Bean fundraiser in a neighborhood where people name their houses stuff like the Hacienda Pretenda. Seems Quist's credentials—working mother, faithful Republican, nine years as an attorney, a stint as a paralegal, a degree in education, and a side career as a Julliard-trained ballerina—don't impress them. So for the first nine months, she gets by with a little help from her friends and not much more.

March 1998: Quist, worn down by months of one-on-one campaigning, attempts to negotiate a $1,000 deal with TV wunderkinds Rich Belz and Roger Bourdeau. The proffered sum won't even cover production costs; TV seems an impossible dream. Several weeks later, she begs, borrows enough to meet their bottom line and TV spots titled "Beans and Cornbread," "Child Support," and "Cathy Educates the Public" introduce voters to Cathy Quist.

May 5, 1998: GOP headquarters is rocking with enthusiasm for newly-elected Quist, who has just given an elegant, ad-libbed acceptance speech as the chant starts in the back of the crowded ballroom and picks up decibels as it moves forward: "CATHY! CATHY! CATHY!"

The only discordant note amidst the jubilation is the sheriff's man screaming into a cell phone.

"That's a load of shit, George! I'm not going to let you do this to her!"

Face red, teeth clenched, Chief Deputy Dwight Van de Vate, one of the most faithful of Quist's supporters and normally the mildest of men, is going postal. On the other end of the line is a TV political analyst who wants someone from the sheriff's camp to hasten down to the station and chat live at 11 about how Sheriff Tim Hutchison got Quist elected.

By pegging the election "Birth of a New Machine," the TV guy missed the real story:
"The Little Engine That Could."