Bowman chosen for Knox Election Commission

On March 13, 2009, in News 2009, by Mark Norris

Lawyer joins GOP members Heagerty and Crilly

By Tom Humphrey,
March 13, 2009

NASHVILLE – Republican legislators chose attorney Robert L. Bowman as a new member of the Knox County Election Commission on Thursday and gave new terms to incumbent commissioners Chris Heagerty and Paul Crilly.

The voting by Republican legislators representing Knox County was held over the objections of Rep. Stacey Campfield, who contended the election should have been held in Knoxville and delayed so applicants could be interviewed.

Campfield said he had not even seen a list of the 12 applicants for the three GOP commissioner positions until arriving at Sen. Tim Burchett’s office for the vote. Burchett, chairman of the Knox delegation, said the list had been e-mailed to legislators. Applicants had been told they could contact delegation members, and most did, Burchett said.

Campfield told Burchett he did not know many of the applicants and, in the case of Heagerty, said, “I know he’s your best buddy, but other than that I don’t know anything about him.”

He then made a motion that the vote be delayed until applicants were interviewed. None of the seven other Republican legislators on hand would second Campfield’s motion and Burchett declared the motion dead.

Bowman, Crilly and Heagerty were elected on the first ballot. That means each had to receive at least five votes from the eight legislators, who voted through secret paper ballot. Vote totals were not announced.

All county election commissions now have three Democrats and two Republicans. Next month, when new terms begin, that will shift to three Republicans and two Democrats because the GOP now holds a majority of seats in the General Assembly.

The Knox County Republican recommendations now go to the State Election Commission, which will formally appoint the recommended men.

The Knox County Election Commission hires a county election administrator and the new Republican majority may replace current Administrator Greg Mackay, who has served under the Democratic majority.

Burchett, Campfield and some of the other Republican lawmakers have said they believe a Republican should get the administrator job.

Campfield has urged the job go to Knoxville City Councilman Steve Hall, though he denies suggestions that he asked applicants for a pledge to back Hall as administrator before he’d support them as a commissioner.

“It’s one of the few times I’ve felt really let down by my delegation,” said Campfield after the voting. “You would think, after ‘Black Wednesday,’ they would realize Knoxville wants an open process, at least where candidates have a chance to present themselves.”

According to information Bowman distributed to the legislators, the Kingsport native is a partner in the law firm of Kramer Rayson who has been active in Republican politics since being a member of the College Young Republicans at the University of Tennessee, where he obtained both a political science degree and a law degree.

The Senate on Thursday approved legislation that will give Republicans control of the State Election Commission three years earlier than would occur under present law.

The bill by Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris was approved 24-7 and now goes to the House.

The current members of the State Election Commission – three Democrats and two Republicans – began four-year terms in 2008. The bill adds two Republican members effective immediately, giving the GOP a 4-3 majority. Otherwise, the Democratic majority would continue until 2012, when the incumbents’ terms expire.

Under the bill, the State Election Commission will drop back to five members in 2012. If Republicans retain a majority of legislative seats at that time, they will then have three seats and Democrats two.

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