Freshman Rep. Jason Zachary says the first bill he brought before the House Local Government Subcommittee would have saved Knox County $30,000 if it had been in effect when he won a special election last year.
The Knoxville Republican’s bill — HB1475 — would eliminate early voting in special elections when there is only one candidate on the ballot – the situation that occurred in 2015 when Zachary was the only candidate on the special general election to replace former Rep. Ryan Haynes, who vacated the 14th House District seat to become state Republican Party chairman.
Zachary defeated fellow Republican Karen Carson in the August 2014 special primary election. No Democrat sought nomination to the seat and no one filed the paperwork necessary under state law to qualify as a write-in candidate. The Knox County Commission proceeded to appoint Zachary to take the seat early, but — as required under existing state law — the county election commission proceeded with holding early voting prior to the special general election in September.
Zachary told the subcommittee last week that the early voting cost taxpayers about $30,000 and “this is a bill to protect the taxpayers” in the future based on his personal past experience. He said about 5,000 people voted in the contested primary while only about 200 in the uncontested general election.
The panel approved the bill on voice vote and with no discussion on its merits, but not without a bit of the banter that freshman legislators typically endure on their initial appearance as sponsor of a bill.
Local Government Committee Chairman Tim Wirgau, R-Buchannan, told Zachary it was traditional for a freshman appearing before the panel to sing “the Tennessee General Assembly fight song” prior to a vote.
“If you will teach it to me, I will sing it,” Zachary replied.
Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, asked Zachary if he voted for himself in the special general election. Zachary acknowledged doing so and Miller then declared support of the bill, noting that without it the possibility would exist for a candidate being elected based only on his own vote — as would have been the case if “those 199 other people didn’t vote.”
The General Assembly, while it does have its own official flag, does not have an official fight song — at least not yet — though it has enacted multiple official state songs.