By Ian Berry Staff Writer
Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry will have at least one, if not two challengers, as he seeks re-election in 2006.
Melvin "Red" Burrows, a retired Colonial Baking Co. employee, has qualified for the th District Republican primary. Curtis Smith, owner of Choo-Choo Carpets, has picked up GOP primary papers but has not qualified.
The primary election is May 2. The qualifying deadline is Feb. 16.
Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Bobby Wood said it would be unusual for a sitting county commissioner to have two primary challengers.
The interest could be a product of last summer's commission vote to increase the property tax by 26 cents per $100 of assessed value, Mr. Wood said.
"The main issue, I think, was the tax vote and the uncertainty of what Mr. Henry would do on tax matters," Mr. Wood said.
Mr. Henry was the swing vote in 2004, when he voted against a tax increase that was rejected, and again in 2005, when he voted for the increase.
Mr. Henry said a good education system is crucial to attracting jobs.
"If you want a county that's aggressive and moves forward, sometimes you've got to make decisions," Mr. Henry said.
Mr. Burrows is running on an anti-tax platform.
"Red Burrows will not vote for a property tax increase, period," Mr. Burrows said.
He said he wants to "return honesty to District 7." Mr. Burrows said Mr. Henry told him before the tax vote that he wouldn't approve a tax increase.
Mr. Henry denied saying that. He said he generally does not support tax increases but cannot rule them out completely.
"Certainly, for anybody to say they'll never vote for a tax increase, that's not even a smart thing to say," Mr. Henry said. "You don't know what the future holds."
Mr. Henry was elected to his first term in 2002. He said he wants to focus on economic development in Hamilton County.
Mr. Smith said he does not have pre-conceived notions about how to deal with county issues. He said he does not "have some big political agenda" that he is trying to push, but that he has a vested interest in the district.
His view on taxes is more in line with Mr. Henry's than Mr. Burrows' view.
"Sometimes there's no alternative," Mr. Smith said. "I'd like to see if there are alternatives."
Mr. Wood said he thought the contest could be close, but that the party would not be endorsing a candidate in the primary.
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