For the first time in his life, Bill Boner lost a political race Tuesday when computer systems analyst Bill Garrett easily beat the former Metro mayor in a countywide race for register of deeds.
Meanwhile, in the other most closely watched election of the political season, incumbent Juvenile Court Judge Andy Shookhoff was defeated, a victim of public sentiment that he’s been too lenient in punishing Nashville’s juvenile criminals.
Boner, who currently represents East Nashville in the state Legislature, was expected to do much better in the six-candidate Democratic primary field for the $84,000-a-year register of deeds job. On Tuesday night he said he does not plan to run for reelection to the Legislature in August.
Boner’s election two years ago as East Nashville’s representative in the Legislature marked his political resurrection after a troubled personal life had threatened to ring a death knell to his public career. Now Boner says he will walk away from politics and do something else.
“I have no idea what I’ll do,” the 53-year-old Boner said, in a post-election telephone interview from the Edgefield Sports Bar & Grill in East Nashville. “I didn’t think I’d get back into politics to begin with. Right now, I’m really tired, and I want to go home and take a shower.”
Garrett, the 39-year-old son of Bill Garrett, the late Metro trustee, attributed his healthy win to “a lot of hard work” and the solid reputation of his father and the Garrett family. “We anticipated the low turnout would probably be in [Boner’s] favor,” Garrett said. “But it ended up that we got our vote out, and he didn’t.”
Garrett will face token opposition from Republican nominee Elisabeth Cothren and two independents on the August general election ballot.
Meanwhile, Davidson County prosecutor Betty Adams said her victory in the Juvenile Court race signaled a “grassroots” dissatisfaction with the direction Davidson County Juvenile Court has headed under Shookhoff’s leadership. “I think Nashville has made a statement that it wants Juvenile Court to be balanced,” Adams said, speaking last night from her East Nashville home. “You can’t wait until the fourth, the fifth, or the sixth appearance in Juvenile Court.”
On a lighter note, Adams said she hadn’t started celebrating in earnest until her victory was secure. Working the polls on Tuesday afternoon, she said, “If we win, we’re drinking champagne. If we lose, we’re drinking beer.” When her victory became clear, Adams said last night, she had to send for the champagne, because “I don’t take anything for granted.”
In 1990 Shookhoff was a West Nashville candidate who promised to reform the vastly disorganized Juvenile Court. On Tuesday night, he delivered an emotional concession speech to supporters at his 21st Avenue campaign headquarters. “For me, it was a heck of an eight years,” he said, referring to his term in Juvenile Court. “I’m going to find another way to advocate for kids.... [Juvenile Court] is an important institution, and I wish Betty the best in moving it forward.”
Two other races seemed uncertain going into Tuesday’s election but ended up giving strong votes of confidence to the incumbents. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, a popular judge and a Republican-turned-Democrat, easily won a full term in the judgeship to which she had been appointed by Republican Gov. Don Sundquist.
Lyle spent much of her time on election day afternoon displaying one of her own signs and greeting voters at one of the county’s largest voting precincts. “The voters of Davidson County have paid my salary for the past three years,” Lyle said. “The least I can do is wave to them.”
Meanwhile, popular General Sessions Judge Bill Faimon, whose supporters feared the worst in his race against a controversial challenger, handily defeated opponent Penny Harrington. Already a General Sessions judge, Harrington had opted to run against Faimon rather than run for re-election to her own division of the court.
In the race for one of two newly created General Sessions judgeships, underdog Andrei Ellen Lee, an attorney on leave from her job as a Juvenile Court referee and the only black woman on Davidson County’s primary ballot, nearly eked out a win over two vastly better -known candidates.
Former Metro Council member Randy Kennedy, universally considered one of the two front-runners in the race, actually came in third behind Lee and the eventual winner, Casey Moreland, who had outspent and outadvertised his opponents. Had she won, Lee would have been Davidson County’s first black female judge.
In the race for the other new General Sessions seat, second-term Metro Council member John Aaron Holt beat out Carlton Lewis, the only other black judicial candidate in Tuesday’s primary.
The results in the race for another newly created judgeship, in Davidson County’s Eight Circuit Court, were considered something of an upset. Bass Berry & Sims attorney Cliff Knowles, who had raised the most money in that race, lost to attorney Carol Soloman, who had cast her opponent as a card-carrying member of Nashville’s overprivileged elite. For her own part, Soloman told a local television station her victory was the result of “ hard work against big money, and that is very fine.”
The numbers game
As expected, this election day provided no glowing display of democracy in action. Only about 15 percent of Davidson County’s 307,000 registered voters showed up to cast ballots in 12 contested judicial races and several other non-judicial contests, including the race for register of deeds.
Despite sunny weather and balmy temperatures, voting traffic at Davidson County’s 169 precincts was consistently slow all day long. A midday stop at Andrew Jackson School in Old Hickory found candidates with plenty of time to serve cold drinks to voters and poll workers.
The slow traffic also meant politicos had plenty of time to stand around and chat. “[Judges] can’t raise your taxes,” Davidson County district attorney Torry Johnson said, offering one possible explanation for the overwhelmingly apathetic response from voters. “Judges can’t pave your roads. They can’t help you get your social security payments. The vast majority of people hope they never see them.” In his own race, Johnson breezed past token opposition from attorney Tom Storey.
At least among Davidson County political organizers who deem themselves proponents of “good government,” the low voter turnout was being widely blamed for both Shookhoff‘s and Knowles’ defeats. Both of those candidates were expected to do well in West Nashville precincts and among better-educated voters in general.
To that group of voters, Shookhoff’s election eight years ago seemed something of a watershed, as 95,000 people went to the polls and elected a well-educated, Jewish liberal to run Metro’s Juvenile Court. Shookhoff supporters went on to enjoy success in a number of judicial races. In many cases, they supported women, including Gayle Ray, in her successful bid for the sheriff’s post.
But only a few voters went to the polls this week. And the ones who did turn out seemed to prove that Nashville’s traditional voting powers, such as labor groups and government employees, can still pack a wallop. Both Adams and Soloman had significant support from those groups.
Nashville’s progressive electorate will inevitably be disappointed by Tuesday’s results. They will grouse that the results stemmed from a “non-representative” turnout. In the end, however, the voters who went to the polls were the ones that mattered. Well-educated or just the common folk, they were the ones who had their say.
@Tom Wood: It's doubtful Manning will equal George Blanda's longevity. Blanda was even a pretty…
And furthermore, we don't try cases based on what the news reports. We try them…
In order for there to be a 1st degree murder charge they would've needed solid…
It's overdue, but I'm glad it's in progress. I still don't understand, with the information…
Past time Nashville Metro, Get ya head outta ya ass and do the right thing,…