State Senate District Six candidate Victoria DeFreese, left, talks with supporters Oslo Cole, center, and Amanda Vineski, right, during a mixer event for state Senate candidates Aug. 3 at the Emporium Building in downtown Knoxville. (Photo by J.J. Kindred)
By J.J. KINDRED
State Senate candidate Victoria DeFreese used a classic children’s arcade game to describe how her campaign was coming along as it comes to crunch time.
“I feel like its a game of Whack-A-Mole, and I’ve got the mallet and knocking hard,” said DeFreese, a former schoolteacher and Knox County commissioner. “I’ve got people helping me with strategies. I have not had a lot of time — none of the candidates have — so I’m trying to reach the most people I can. The people of Knoxville have been fabulous in helping promote this special election.”
DeFreese, along with other candidates Marilyn Roddy and Becky Duncan-Massey discussed their ongoing campaigns for the vacant state Senate Sixth District seat, as well as issues on the arts, during a mixer event Aug. 3.
Held in the Emporium Building on Gay Street, the event was sponsored by the Knoxville Tourism Alliance (KTA) and the Arts & Culture Alliance.
The candidates are vying for the seat vacated this summer by former state Sen. Jamie Woodson, who is now the president and CEO of the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).
All three candidates were very vocal when it came down to the issues of arts and tourism in East Tennessee, which they addressed during a discussion forum moderated by Allison Kropff of WVLT-TV.
“I believe the arts provide depth,” DeFreese said. “Looking at your faces and being associated in different capacities, it has enriched the lives of many. To capture that into a medium makes it broader, and that makes it a statewide niche. As an educator, I know our state is into education, but tourism is something we need to capitalize on and bring more people into the community, increase revenue, and create jobs.”
“One of my biggest things is working with arts,” said Massey, the sister of U.S. Rep. John Duncan. She has a sister who taught art in the public school system, and her daughter teaches dance for the Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble.
“My husband and I volunteer with many non-profits in the Knoxville area, helping with charitable auctions,” she added.
“I’m trained as an educator,” said Roddy, the Knoxville city councilwoman who dropped out of the race for Knoxville mayor to run for the Senate seat. “I’m running for state Senate because I believe I have the right qualifications to make Nashville work for you. I believe leadership is a good thing, and I Iisten to all perspectives. There are a few people that don’t believe public funds should be used to support the arts.
“We have to justify why this investment is worth the public tax dollars,” Roddy continued. “The kinds of things the Tennessee Arts Commission has invested in over the last several years, with union-covered dollars, can show measurable outcomes. When we integrate arts across (school) curriculums, our students and our workers need to have problem-solving skills, teamwork, and critical thinking in order to succeed. What they are doing is investing in our economy and investing in our future prosperity in Tennessee.”
Roddy said after the event that she was encouraged.
“It’s an exciting time in Knox County,” she said. “I think there is a sense of excitement as the campaign comes to a crescendo. I think more than anything, there’s excitement about taking this right to the finish.”
Massey has described her campaign experience as amazing.
“I have been having more fun being out on the trail and meeting folks, and talking to them. The folks have been just amazing. The energy and enthusiasm for the campaign has been overwhelming.”
As far as last-minute campaign strategies, Massey said, “We’re just going to keep working and reaching out to as many folks as possible going door-to-door for events and forums. It’s more about listening, as opposed to being a dictator and telling folks what I think. I want to hear what they think.”
DeFreese shared Roddy’s sentiment about being encouraged.
“It’s been really a hot campaign, let me tell you,” she said with a laugh. “I am really encouraged when I go out in the community, it’s just fabulous. I been very encouraged by the people I meet, and they keep me going. I’m excited to be in this race, and excited to be another candidate on the ballot. I hope to serve the people well, and just prove that I can go through a blistering hot summer, and go door-to- door and not forget them, because that’s what this is all about, the people.”