Roy Exum: 'Manny' And Other Things

Friday, July 31, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

With tomorrow as the last day for “early voting” in Tennessee’s primary election, which will be held next Thursday, much of the nation has become entranced by the down-to-the-wire coin toss between a true outsider and an established “swamp” dweller. And for the life of me, I struggle with those voters who have yet to discover that “Dr. Manny” Sethi is overwhelmingly the best choice for our state. The trauma surgeon’s opponent – Bill Hagerty – is the Republican Party’s pick, if that in itself isn’t enough to scare you to death. A newcomer to politics, Sethi is as genuine and as inviting as his rural Tennessee background, and his long-established concerns for the citizens of Tennessee are well founded.

The website Politico is calling the Sethi-Hagerty primary “the nastiest in the country,” which earned that dubious distinction when, much to “the machine’s” dismay, Sethi began to play havoc with such a shoo-in and Hagerty’s 17-point lead began to hemorrhage like a cherry Popsicle in the summer sun. Mind you, it wasn’t Hagerty’s haughty approach to the state’s hay-seeds but Manny’s clear appeal that was borne years before when he could make the badly injured believe he could help.

As Hagerty’s high hopes were soon whittled away, the “swamp” in him produced a packet of “dirty” political ads, full of lies and deceptions. They alleged he was a closet liberal, that “Massachusetts Manny” sat on a medical board that made a donation to liberal causes, and “the biggie;” that 12 years ago he and his wife made a $50 donation to a family friend that was channeled through some funding base Sethi had never heard of. What if the funding base gave to "Che" Guevara or the Castro brothers? Who cares? Sethi certainly didn’t do any of the kind but Hagerty wanted the smear too desperately. And a 12-year-old campaign donation was all “the dirty” the swamp could find.

What’s more, Hagerty has made a number of campaign donations to “the other side,” including Albert Gore, and Sethi could care less. His deal is Hagerty has all but testified in court that he is completely devoted to each and every whim of President Trump, making him “golden” to the Party. Sethi is also a Trump man – to a point – but the difference in the two is overly simple: Sethi needs Trump to help Tennessee – Hagerty needs Tennessee’s Senate seat to help Trump. There’s the difference.

Any Tennessean who fails to see the difference in the state’s crucial needs, versus America’s crucial needs, needs to realize that in this day and time, “odd man out” is not a game we want to play for the next six years.

* * *


Tom Decosimo has – in my opinion – done more to bolster public education in Chattanooga than anybody short of being an elected official or an employee of the school district. He, Mike McGauley, Doug Daugherty and certain others have created the non-profit Hamilton Flourishing. They are proudly conservative and, as “a think tank,” are rebuilding what the misguided and somewhat dark UnifiEd group tore asunder in the court of public opinion.

What you don’t know (yet) is that Hamilton Flourishing is coming up with ways to save and nurture our “lost” inner-city kids but, first, Decosimo must become part of the ever-fragile School Board. The dream is to get Rhonda Thurman – for years the ‘Voice of Reason’ on the board, re-elected. Then add Tom with newcomer Debbi Meyers and it is strongly believed there will be a better balance on the ever-shaky School Board for the good.

The best illustration of what ‘the good’ means just arrived “in flames” when the liberal elites found fault with a Decosimo ad where Tom identified himself as “a Republican.” He could have identified himself as a member of one of our community’s finest families, or as a Christian, or as a conservative, or as a community leader who believes in values, or integrity, or scruples, or character, or the Biblical truth, and no one would have flinched.

But no. He declared he was a Republican and it was more than “the little minds” could endure. The Times Free Press devoted more column-inches to the “faux news” than the senseless riots in Portland, and County Commissioner David Sharpe, speaking from the dais, stooped to an all-time partisan low when he said, “I think if you asked anyone in District 2, or any other district for that matter, I think that most would agree that partisanship has no place on the school board.

“We all see how broken Washington has become with hyper-partisanship. We see it all over the country. And, frankly, I think it is dangerous to bring this kind of thinking to Hamilton County,” Sharpe added, seemingly oblivious to the fact his unnecessary but anger-guided comments did exactly that. The point being, all involved would have been better served if David had held his tongue.

To ask ‘why’ he felt called upon to speak for the liberal elites defies imagination, but he did. And that is where we are.

* * *


While it is six months away, of special significance is the 2021 election of the next mayor of Chattanooga. Under Democrat Andy Berke, many feel that the findings that Chattanooga is one of the worst-run cities in the United States must be addressed and Tim Kelly, a successful business man, is among the front runners. Make no doubt, Tim is an extremely likable and appealing candidate, but Chattanooga’s conservative core got quite a wake-up call several days ago.

It was revealed Kelly had given a public donation to Marco Perez, the ‘liberate elite’ candidate who is running against the establishment favorite Decosimo and Tim, who claims he is a moderate, has suddenly cast himself among the liberal elites. Kelly’s contribution becomes his endorsement against Decosimo, and while it is believed several additional candidates will apply after next week’s Aug. 6 primary election, Kelly’s actions may embolden more conservative candidates.

It has been reported that Russell Gilbert, currently a member of the City Council, will be a candidate and, more recently, Monty Burell, a small business advisor, has announced his candidacy. 

According to the Hamilton County Election Commission, those wishing to run for Chattanooga mayor will be able to pick up a petition beginning Oct. 19. The deadline to qualify is Dec. 17 and Chattanoogans will select their next mayor on March 2, 2021.

* * *


It don’t know the particulars – I’m neither a detective nor a share holder – but when Wayne Wilkerson, acknowledged as “the leader” in the “Cream Scheme” that defrauded millions of dollars from insurance companies, was sentenced to 165 months in prison on Tuesday, there was still some pesky smoldering smoke left around the campfire.

Federal Judge Sandy Mattice pronounced Wayne Wilkerson’s sentence in Winchester’s Federal Court building after a lengthy hearing. To hear some tell it, a chunk of the money that drifted up in the smoke came from the Hamilton County’s Department of Education’s Insurance Fund. The story is the fund took a pretty big lick, and remember the HCDE is self-insured. Now some are asking that the authorities look at the withdrawals, publicly reveal the district’s total losses, and learn not only which HCDE personnel was involved but – if true -- who authorized such a thing and why?

I’m sure somebody can make sure the HCDE didn’t do anything untoward or foolish.

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