An anonymous, multi-colored flier — showing photographs of four candidates in the Sept. 27 city and state Senate primaries and labeled “The next generation of leadership” — is not a violation of any campaign law, Knox County Attorney General Randy Nichols says, so he plans to do “nothing” about it.
“We can’t find out it’s a violation,” he said Thursday.
Nichols was sent a copy of the flier early in the week by Cliff Rodgers, Knox County elections administrator, when it was brought to Rodgers’ attention that it was “an unusual combination there,” he said.
The photographs are of Becky Duncan Massey, one of three Republicans seeking the 6th District Senate seat; Mark Padgett, one of five candidates running for mayor in Knoxville’s nonpartisan races; George Wallace, one of four seeking Knoxville City Council At Large Seat A, and Marshall Stair, one of three seeking the council’s At Large Seat B.
Nichols said the flier does not “expressly urge the election of a candidate or the defeat of a particular measure” so it does not have to have the “paid for by” credit line.
“From the political side, you don’t know if someone isn’t playing a hoax. It’s not a good idea to be pictured with someone else. It may cost more votes than you win. I have heard it had upset some of them (candidates),” Nichols said.
The candidates have all talked to each other, they said, to tell each other they were not responsible for the flier. Wallace and Massey said they also had talked to mayoral candidates Ivan Harmon and Madeline Rogero.
The postcard flier was mailed using a 44-cent stamp. “It cost a lot of money,” Wallace said. He said he figured with printing and postage, it cost $1 apiece.
“I’m naïve. I don’t know who benefits. I’ve worked hard to be independent on purpose. That’s advice I got in the beginning. I like all the people who are on there. It doesn’t mean I’m aligned with them,” Wallace said.
Massey said she has supporters supporting other candidates than those pictured. “They would never do anything like that or give my permission for anything like that to be done. They obviously took my picture off of my FB (Facebook) or website,” Massey said.
Padgett said he’s running his own race and focusing on getting out his message. “We’ve made 20,000 voter contacts through phone calls and knocking on doors,” he said.
“It’s obvious whoever did it wanted to be anonymous,” Stair said. “If it was going to be a bulk mailing, they’d be given a bulk mail number and you can figure out who sent it. It is somebody who has money.”