What to make of election results?

Published 7:57 am Friday, May 7, 2010

Franklin voters sent a clear message Tuesday: The change they sought with the election of City Council members Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess two years ago isn’t complete.

By electing anti-establishment candidates Greg McLemore in Ward 3 and Don Blythe in Ward 6 to the council, citizens struck another resounding blow against the status quo.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence became the second council incumbent in two years to lose resoundingly in a bid for re-election. In the two wards — 1 and 6 — where incumbents have voluntarily given up their seats in recent years, voters chose the candidates — Barry Cheatham and Blythe — who were perceived to be agents of change.

An exception to the recent anti-incumbent mood was the comfortable re-election of Mayor Jim Councill to an eighth term. Councill struggled to re-election two years ago with less than a majority of the vote in a three-candidate field. Tuesday night, he got 56 percent of the vote and cruised to re-election over challenger James Riddick Sr.

In their zeal for change, voters apparently believe that stability in the mayor’s seat is good, especially during a time of economic crisis for Franklin, which is losing its anchor employer, International Paper Co.

Councill is a passionate and effective advocate for Franklin, which needs all the allies it can get throughout the region and state. The mayor, through his service on regional and state boards and committees, represents the city with professionalism and distinction.

We will watch with interest as McLemore and Blythe join the council. Will they align with Burgess and Cheatham and continue the crusade for fiscal reform begun two years ago? Have Burgess and Cheatham lost their appetite for change, leaving that mantle to the two newcomers? Will McLemore get a chilly reception from council members whom he has criticized loudly in his work as a political activist?

Should be fun to watch in the weeks ahead.