published Friday, February 19th, 2010

Qualifying ends; only Coppinger unopposed


by Matt Wilson

Primary challengers filed paperwork Thursday to run against Hamilton County Commissioners Fred Skillern and Warren Mackey, leaving only one incumbent commissioner without an opponent this year.

"I wanted to create an opportunity for choice and for change," said Laura Oakley, owner of Professional Recruiting Services, who is running against Mr. Skillern. "I'm still looking for a visible county commissioner."

Ms. Oakley, a Republican, will face Mr. Skillern, also a Republican, for a second time. She ran against him for the District 1 commission seat in 2006.

Mr. Skillern said it's "everybody's right" to run for office.

"I'll just lay out what I've done and hope people want me to do it for another four years," he said.

Thursday was the last day candidates could file qualifying papers to run for the commission. Only Commissioner Jim Coppinger in District 3 remains unopposed.

Former City Councilwoman Debbie Gaines, a Democrat, filed her papers to run against Dr. Mackey, also a Democrat, a little more than an hour before the noon deadline.

Ms. Gaines said her run is not necessarily against Dr. Mackey.

"It's about giving people a choice," she said. "I have received many calls from citizens throughout my district asking me for the last several months to consider the run."

Ms. Gaines was a City Council member from 2006 to 2009.

Dr. Mackey said, "There's always an assumption that there will be challenges from time to time." He said it will be up to the people to decide if he retains the seat.

In other races, another challenger, Republican James Fields, qualified to run against Commissioner Richard Casavant for the District 2 seat. Independent Richard Ford joined the race for county mayor.

ELECTION DATES

April 5: Last day to register to vote in county primary

April 14-29: Early voting in county primary

May 4: County primary

July 6: Last day to register to vote in county general election

July 16-31: Early voting in county general election

Aug. 5: County general election

Mr. Ford said he was "tired of the way things are being not done," such as implementing a tax freeze for senior citizens.

Mr. Fields could not be reached for comment.

Timothy Boyd, a Republican, turned in his qualifying papers to enter the five-man race for the open seat in commission District 8, from which Commission Chairman Curtis Adams is retiring.

Mr. Boyd said he wants to continue sustainable growth in what he called "act two of Chattanooga's renaissance."

"We need community leaders who ask the right questions," he said.

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