Has it really only been a week since the city's primary elections? We swear, it feels like a month, at least. There was the drama as to whether Madeline Rogero might eke out enough provisional ballots to avoid a runoff. (She didn't.) Then Mark Padgett issued his own "Padgett Plan" and accused Rogero of stealing his campaign talking points. (Not true, it turns out.) Rogero fired back and then took to Twitter to criticize Padgett, who responded with his own criticisms.
Now, today, the animosity has reached a new level - which is to say, there actually seems to be some animosity. Both candidates have run a pretty clean campaign thus far (on the surface anyway; there have been all kinds of rumors, as per usual with any campaign, about sign-stealing and paid anonymous Internet commenters, etc.). Both Padgett and Rogero's television ads have been positive, but after today, we can't imagine they'll stay that way for long.
So here's what happened: Padgett held a press conference on the steps of the county courthouse at 1 p.m. to announce he had secured the endorsements of his former competitors: Ivan Harmon, Bo Bennett, and Joe Hultquist, along with Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones. The endorsement of Harmon was not a surprise, as Harmon told WBIR last night that he and Padgett had made a deal to support each other, should one or the other end up in a runoff. WBIR quotes Harmon as saying, "[E]arlier on in the campaign at [sic] had talked to mark [sic] about the situation if I was to come in first I would like to have his support and vice-versa."
You can read the full press release here,
and the campaign says a video of the event will soon be up on Padgett's YouTube channel , although it's not there as of this writing. UPDATE: Here's the video:
If you don't want to watch it, here's the takeaway - the endorsement quotes:
"I'm proud to endorse Mark's candidacy to be Knoxville's next city mayor," said Ivan Harmon, former mayoral candidate, city councilman and county commissioner. "Mark is pro-business and pro-neighborhood. He has the heart and passion to serve our community, and he's a fiscal conservative who understands how to create jobs and grow our economy.""As I've gotten to know Mark on the campaign trail, I've come to appreciate his intelligence, vision and passion. He understands that Knoxville has to think regionally to grow the local economy and improve our quality of life," said Joe Hultquist, former mayoral candidate and city councilman. "Mark shares my commitment to find and root out waste and inefficiencies in city government so that we can redirect those funds to the programs and services we all care about.""After getting to know Mark and his character, I'm supporting his candidacy because I believe he will serve all of Knoxville with a servants heart," said Bo Bennett, 911 operator and former mayoral candidate. "Like me, Mark is not a career politician, and I think that's what we need to help bring our communities together and grow Knoxville.""Mark has the leadership qualities needed to be a great mayor," Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones said. "He understands that an involved community is a safe community and will be a great partner in making our neighborhoods stronger and safer."The endorsers pledged to join Mark on the campaign trail, as well as urge their friends, family and colleagues to support Mark's candidacy.
A couple of hours before Padgett's press conference, Rogero announced she'd be having one of her own at 3 p.m. in front of the new Three Rivers Market. And boy, did Rogero have some words for Padgett. We posted the entire speech earlier, but here are the juicy parts:
A few years ago, over at our County courthouse, a small group of political insiders tried to stage a coup, on a day we all know as "Black Wednesday."Earlier today, standing next to many of those same "Black Wednesday" insiders, my opponent put on a show that perfectly illustrates the contrast between us. He lined up a group of politicians and job-seekers on the steps of the County courthouse. Their appearance with him has almost nothing to do with who is the best choice for city mayor, and everything to do with the old-style insider politics of the County courthouse.Sadly, my opponent's stunt today has shown us that he is, in the end, a child of those same courthouse politics. But, Mark, let's be clear: Though today is a Wednesday, there will never be a "Black Wednesday" here in our city.We reject those politics. Our Knoxville conducts business in the open. His Knoxville makes deals in the back room. Our Knoxville takes humble pride in what all of us accomplish together. His Knoxville will arrogantly reserve power to the few. Our Knoxville looks forward to a bright future. His Knoxville wants to move backward to a dim past.That Knoxville is over. Our Knoxville has already begun.
Rogero was sweating as she took the jerry-rigged milk crate podium in the hot sun (as were all the reporters present), and her hands shook as she delivered the speech. (Was it nerves, we asked after? No, she told us. Perhaps she was shaking with a controlled rage - although while the text of her speech was harsh on Padgett, Rogero didn't seem at all angry as she delivered it.)
She said she had heard from Bennett as well as Harmon that an endorsement deal had been in place for months. When asked about Hulquist's somewhat surprising endorsement of Padgett, considering that he and Rogero have worked for many of the same causes over the years, Rogero said, "Joe didn't have the courtesy to return my phone calls."
She also questioned why Padgett was collecting endorsements from county officials such as Jones. (County Comissioner Jeff Ownby was also in attendance at Padgett's event, and the candidate later confirmed Ownby is supporting him.) "This is a city race, not a county race, and I want to keep the focus on the city," Rogero said. And although former At-Large Seat A City Council candidate Paul Berney was one of a handful of non-media-types at the event, Rogero said she wouldn't be seeking the endorsement of any council candidates, either the ones still running or the ones who lost last week.
Padgett responded to Rogero's speech with the following statement:
"Once again I'm saddened by my opponent's focus on name-calling and mud-slinging. Knoxville deserves better. In contrast, my news conference today was about bipartisanship, ideas and issues to move Knoxville forward. I'm focused on my plan to create jobs and economic growth so we can strengthen our neighborhoods and improve city services. I encourage everyone to read my plan at VotePadgett.com and send feedback to email@example.com."
In a brief phone conversation, Padgett added that he wasn't sure how Rogero connected him with Black Wednesday at all and seemed somewhat taken aback by Rogero's negative descriptions of him. But when asked, Rogero said she didn't think going negative was going to come back and hurt her, and that Padgett had started it with his accusations last week, and that she is simply "addressing the issues that he laid out today."
We can only imagine that this bickering is a sign of things to come. So get a good night's sleep, y'all - it's going to be a long five weeks until Nov. 8.