The first Democrat took steps Monday to enter the 2012 race for Hamilton County mayor.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga political science professor Richard "Rick" Wilson picked up qualifying papers and announced his plan at the Hamilton County Democratic Party's annual Estes Kefauver Dinner.
"I am available to be a candidate if there is sufficient support within the Democratic Party," Wilson said.
A special election will be held next year to fill the remainder of former Mayor Claude Ramsey's term, which ends in 2014. Ramsey left to become deputy governor of Tennessee in January.
The County Commission appointed Commissioner Jim Coppinger county mayor until the 2012 elections.
Wilson, a Fulbright scholar who's been a faculty member at UTC since 1971, proposed a "tax limitation" plan that would work toward consolidated city/county general services while locking in a tax rate.
"My fundamental concern is to get jobs. To get jobs, you need economic development," he said. "In order to do something about economic development, you have to do something about taxes."
Coppinger, who is running in the Republican primary, said he's holding his first fundraiser this week but already has raked in more than $78,000 -- including money from Democrats.
"I've always had Democratic support when I've run in elections," he said. "Obviously it's a healthy thing, and it's good when people show they can work with any party."
Basil Marceaux Sr., also a Republican, said he submitted his qualifying papers last week.
"The more people running, the lower amount of people to win," he said.
Richard Ford, an independent who works at Miller Industries, refuses to raise funds, citing his concerns about money in politics.
"The more the merrier," Ford said of Wilson's potential entry into the race.
Candidates have until Dec. 8 at noon to qualify.
Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...