By Ian Berry Staff Writer
Hamilton County Commissioner Lou Miller faces opposition in the Democratic Party, and the apparent opposition of the county party chairman, as she seeks re-election.
Attorney John Brooks, a former party chairman campaigning as a "real Democrat," is seeking election in the 6th District, which includes parts of Red Bank, East Lake, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Valley and St. Elmo.
At a recent planning session for Hamilton County Democrats, Stuart James said that as party chairman, he couldn't endorse either candidate in the race. But he went on to praise Mr. Brooks personally, saying "I wish I could endorse John."
"His opponent within the party, Lou Miller, has not voted with the party and stood up for Democratic ideals," Mr. James said.
Mrs. Miller said she's been supporting Democratic candidates all her life and that whether she has the support of party leaders won't affect her campaign.
"I'm not counting on any organized support from the Democratic Party, because they're not organized," she said.
Mrs. Miller is the widow of longtime Democratic commissioner Ben Miller. She said Mr. James shouldn't be criticizing the commission or trying to make it more partisan.
"The things that come up on the commission are not always Republican and Democratic issues," Mrs. Miller said. "I personally think commissioners should be nonpartisan."
Mr. Brooks and Mr. James cited Mrs. Miller's opposition to a tax increase to increase school funding and her vote in October to appoint David Bales as an interim General Sessions Court judge. Mr. Bales is a former county Republican Party chairman.
Mr. Brooks, who held a campaign kickoff Tuesday at the Bessie Smith Hall, said that county commission seats are by their nature partisan positions. However, he said his prior role as party chairman wouldn't affect his job as commissioner.
"I will always try to be polite," he said. "I will always try to do the right thing."
Mr. Brooks and Mr. James said Mrs. Miller often is aligned with Fred Skillern, Curtis Adams and Bill Hullander, all Republican commissioners who voted against last year's 26-cent property tax increase.
Mrs. Miller said the poor and middle class already are overburdened by taxes. She said her priorities for the next four years include changes to the Basic Education Program state funding formula and changes to the county's emissions-testing program.
Mr. Brooks said his priorities include bringing high-paying jobs to Hamilton County, working with the school district and pushing for changes to the BEP funding formula.
Mr. James, who attended Mr. Brooks' campaign kickoff, said he hoped Mrs. Miller would be a more active participant in party events. He said that he would attend any campaign events to which she invites him.
"If she's the nominee, she has my support as party (chairman)," Mr. James said.
Other candidates have until Feb. 16 to qualify with the Hamilton County Election Commission. The primary is May 2, and the general election is Aug. 3.
Staff writer Michael Davis contributed to this story.
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