The upcoming City of Knoxville’s mayor’s race is shaping up to be an interesting one for certain. The field of candidates is among the most diverse in recent times. These candidates are diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, and political persuasion. The mayor’s race is “technically” non-partisan, there are known Democrats and Republicans vying for the spot. That in itself is a positive, and history has shown us that this contest provides some eyebrow-raising alliances with respect to who is supporting whom.
One such alliance stands out to me as not only head-scratching, and in the eyes of some, borderline inappropriate.
State Representative (Dist. 15) Rick Staples and Rev. Harold Middlebrook, Sr, have both held official ranks in the Knox County Democratic Party and both have announced their support for mayoral candidate Eddie Mannis, a well-known Republican. While this is not meant to speak ill of nor harm the candidate, it is intended to call into question the actions of these two prominent Democrats.
I recognize the fact that average citizens have the right to support the candidate of their choice, irrespective of political party affiliation.
The Knox County Democratic Party Executive committee nominated Rick Staples to be on the ballot to replace former State Rep. Joe Armstrong making him a shoo-in for the position. For his second term, Staples fellow Democrats assured that he was unopposed, and voters in his district supported him.
Rev. Harold Middlebrook is the most recent past District One Chairman, and like Staples is politically far from the average citizen.
By virtue of the positions they hold, each has an inherent responsibility to recruit, field, and support Democratic candidates for every office, even when the office is nonpartisan. The sheer optics of this move by these gentlemen can be labeled problematic and should cause every local Democrat to question their party loyalty.
The local Democratic Party has long sought to increase its membership, regain a position of relevance, and return the party to a position of prominence in this community. The position taken by Rep. Rick Staples and Rev. Harold Middlebrook undermines the progress achieved by the Democratic Party and is arguably two steps backward – if not more.
Maurice L. Clark, Sr.
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