In a Hamilton County Commission race in which the top fundraiser also is the chairman of the county school board, public education looms as a large issue among the other candidates.
Independents Jim Winters and Terry Turner, Republican Tim Boyd and Democrat Kenny Smith are vying to succeed Curtis Adams as District 8 commissioner. District 8 includes East Ridge, Brainerd and Eastgate.
Mr. Turner said "education is suffering tremendously right now," but said he is not pointing the blame at anyone in particular. He said too many students going into community colleges have to take remedial courses.
"They have to pay at a college tuition rate for high school education," Mr. Turner said. He added that money would not fix the problem because the schools don't have extra money coming in.
Mr. Winters and Mr. Boyd criticized the way the Hamilton County Board of Education recently passed its $372 million budget.
Several members voted against it, saying they didn't have time to read it.
"I didn't know how it could pass without it being reviewed," Mr. Winters said.
Graduates of the county's high schools are not leaving with the skills they need, he said. Students should graduate knowing how to read, write, add and subtract, he said.
Mr. Boyd said he will reduce the dropout rate getting parents and grandparents more engaged in education.
"We're asking them to be involved in the educational process," he said. "I've got a vision there."
Mr. Boyd also said his business experience would allow him to recruit businesses to the district.
Mr. Smith, school board chairman, said his focus, if elected, will be job creation.
"You get people working, you get good jobs in this town and you fix a lot of problems," he said.
He would push for a stand-alone career and technical high school for students.
Figuring how the race will play out could be tricky, according to Dr. Richard Wilson, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is firm in his belief that independents typically don't fare well in Tennessee.
With that in mind, the District 8 race comes down to whichever party's candidate produces the strongest turnout in the Aug. 5 county general election, he said.
Mr. Smith poses the greatest fundraising challenge to his three opponents. In April, he reported raising more than $56,000 since August 2009.
Mr. Boyd said he has raised about $5,000. Mr. Turner said he has not raised any money and hasn't asked for donations. Mr. Winters also said he hasn't asked for money, but said he's spent about $3,000 of his own money on the campaign.
According to the Hamilton County Election Commission, candidates are not required to file another finance form until mid-July.
Mr. Smith has the money to spend but anti-Democratic sentiment this year could favor a challenger who raises less money, Dr. Wilson said.
Mr. Smith has the advantage of name recognition and respect from his school board colleagues, who have elected him chairman three years in a row, Dr. Wilson said. That gives him a record to run on.
"The only thing that he's working against is the fact that it will be somewhat easier for a Republican running in the general election," Dr. Wilson said.
* July 6, 2010: Last day qualified voters can register to vote for the county general election.
July 16-31: Early voting for the county general election.
Aug. 5: County general election and state race primaries.
Candidates for County Commission, District 8
Kenny Smith, Democrat
* Occupation: Training director for the Chattanooga Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Center
* Previous political Experience: Elected to school board in 2006, served as chairman for three years
Tim Boyd, Republican
* Occupation: Business manager, Southeast Carpenters
* Previous political experience: None
William Terry Turner, Independent
* Occupation: Plumber, Tight Seal Plumbing
* Previous political experience: None
Jim Winters, Independent
* Occupation: Owner of Winters Affordable Homes and a concert promotion business
* Previous political experience: Ran for sheriff as an independent
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Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...