Several of Mike Kernell's friends (and that included most well-known local Democrats) got together at Raffe's Deli and Beer Garden on Poplar Saturday night to raise some money for the longtime District 93 state representative.
To all outward appearances, it was just like all the other small-ticket fundraisers held for Kernell over the years. Many of those were coke-and-pizza affairs held at Garibaldi's, on Walker Avenue near the University of Memphis. This one varied the hors-d'oeuvres slightly (there were sandwiches, and you could sample some rare beers (including one from Poland that's worth a trip to Warsaw), but Kernell looked and sounded the same.
You wouldn't know just from looking on that Kernell's 20-year-old son David, a student at UT-Knoxville, is under a brand-new federal felony indictment as the accused hacker of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's email. But he is, and the son's travails have clearly been visited upon the father, as even a casual conversation about the matter quickly reveals.
Kernell is forthcoming about the matter so far as he knows, which is very little. Friend and foe alike in the General Assembly - and there are few if any of the latter - concede that the Southeast Memphis legislator's stock of integrity (large) and computer expertise (small) makes him an unlikely suspect as a collaborator in whatever activity David Kernell was involved in at Governor Palin's expense. Indeed, state Rep. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville, a certified right-wing Republican and a blogger and computer maven himself, quickly rose to his Democratic colleague's defense once the fact of the son's predicament became public.
Most people suspect that the hacking affair was more prankish than sinister, more ad hoc than organized, but on that the jury is still out (in actual fact, it isn't even in yet, since action on the case evidently won't be taken, if at all, until the current election is over). In any case, the degree of technological legerdemain involved would seem to have been relatively unsophisticated - it involved guessing at the Alaska governor's name/password combination, conning a new one out of Yahoo, and posting on line a few innocuous emails of hers.
Still, the matter is too serious to be easily dismissed, a fact noted by Mike Kernell's Republican opponent in the current election, Memphis police officer Tim Cook, who put out a statement last month which rapidly segued from concern to condemnation:
"When I heard the rumor that Mike Kernell's son was the one responsible for hacking into the Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin's email I was stunned. As a father I sympathize with Mike Kernell and can understand what he is going through as a father. And I will pray for him and his family during this ordeal.
"However, this clearly shows what family values Democrat Mike Kernell has taught his children. It reflects the values of his 34 years as a State Representative in and for the Democratic Party. These are not the type of values the citizens want in their representatives. ..."
Whereupon Cook went on to suggest a possible media conspiracy to ignore an alleged relationship between David Kernell and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
We shall see what we shall see, in due time.
Meanwhile, Mike Kernell, one of the few members of the General Assembly who have no other vocation, soldiers on against Cook, as he has against numerous challengers in the past, several of them endowed with more organizational and financial support than Cook has at present.
Cook has his issues, though - among them a determination to promote the wider use of diesel fuel and an aversion to the income tax, a version of which Rep. Kernell, also known for his support of environmental and ethics legislation, once voted for.
Again, we shall see what we shall see.
An additional wrinkle, called to mind by the presence at Kernell's weekend fundraising event of state House Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry, is the fact that Tim Cook Jr., -- who, as a computer administrator, is presumablhy more tech-savvy than his father - is the Republican nominee against Democrat DeBerry. That fact prompted Rep. Kernell, an incurable punster, to say at his fundraiser, "Too many Cooks will spoil the legislature!"