That sound you hear coming from the Metro Council chambers is a version of political Kumbaya. As The City Paper’s Nate Rau recently reported, some members of our local legislative body are holding hands with an unlikely suitor. And the improbable support of colleague Michael Craddock in next year’s race for criminal court clerk has certain local lawmakers catching flak from ideologically like-minded observers.
That’s because they hold political and public policy views that are utterly contrary to Craddock’s, which could be fairly characterized as extremely conservative. He voted for English-only. He voted last week against protecting gay and lesbian government workers from discrimination. It’s not at all hyperbolic to suggest that, were he in Congress, he might be a “birther.”
By their own explanation, Council members are backing Craddock’s political run because he happens to be a really nice guy who can occasionally inspire collective fiscal commonsense. What’s more, he does what he says he’s going to.
“There’s never any doubt about where he stands, either in private conversation or public comments,” Councilman Mike Jameson told The City Paper. “When I have gone to him and said, ‘Can you support me on this bill?’ whereas others will hem and haw and eventually stab you in the back, Craddock will tell you ‘yes or no’ and he sticks with it.
“So despite the fact that Councilman Craddock and I are light years apart on social issues and political disputes,” Jameson continued, “this is a guy that has a great deal of sensitivity to fiscal restraint and constant responsiveness and those are qualities that far outweigh any philosophical differences when it comes to this office.”
But it may be too much to assume that Craddock’s major political liability as progressives see it — his on-the-record votes against certain constituencies — wouldn’t affect his job performance. That’s extending some major benefit of the doubt, as he would be charged with managing workers and serving a diverse clientele: the public. He should be credited for what appear to be strong personal virtues — his honesty and sincerity — but his public policy votes also should be considered.
How those positions might translate if and when he’s a boss and manager is an important question that the likes of Council members Jameson, Jason Holleman and Megan Barry, among others, haven’t addressed.
Another is whether Craddock, a Realtor, is as qualified as the incumbent to lead a critical government office charged with essential record-keeping and docket juggling, as well as court date continuances, collections, expungements, driver’s license releases, etc.
In addition to his two terms on the Metro Council, Craddock’s résumé lists the following educational qualifications:
• East Nashville High School, 1974
• Institute of Real Estate Training, 1980
Meanwhile, incumbent clerk David Torrence, who’s held the post since 1994, has a college degree and related experience, including 20 years as a criminal court clerk officer and seven years as chief administrative office of the court before being elected to the office’s top job 15 years ago.
This isn’t an apologia for Torrence, who admittedly owes his career to his late father Joe Torrence, who was clerk for many years before him. But it’s worth noting that the office is effectively run. It’s not in the news. Records haven’t been lost or mishandled. That’s in part because Torrence had the wisdom to hire, and has been able to keep, an exceptional chief administrative officer in Tommy Bradley, a former Metro Council member who stepped down when he was tapped for the job. Bradley has modernized the office, overseeing technological and other advances that have made records more accessible to the public.
Which raises another question about Craddock’s candidacy? Would he keep Bradley? If not, he might risk the stability of an all-important office.
No doubt Craddock’s allies will try to leverage Torrence’s legacy status in argument for their candidate. And if Craddock proves formidable enough to acknowledge, Torrence will cast his opponent as less qualified.
Meanwhile, if Craddock is successful, Spanish-speaking homosexuals might want to send someone else for their filings.