published Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Coppinger, Carter both winners this time

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Both men caught in a County Commission deadlock last January for an appointment as Hamilton County mayor won in separate races Thursday night.

Interim County Mayor Jim Coppinger earned two more years in the courthouse.

Mike Carter cleared his primary hurdle in an unopposed run to the state House.

In January 2011, the appointment process to replace Claude Ramsey resulted in a deadlocked 4-4 County Commission vote. Coppinger, the county commissioner representing District 3, ultimately won out over Carter, then-special assistant to Ramsey, who had resigned to become deputy governor.

On Thursday, Coppinger won handily in the special election for the remaining two years of Ramsey's term.

"It's the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of volunteers and a lot of people involved," he said after seeing the unofficial returns. "One thing I'm extremely proud of is we ran a positive campaign. We never made a negative comment about any of our opponents."

Winning more than two-thirds of the vote, Coppinger, 57, beat Democrat Rick Wilson, who received about a quarter of the vote, and independent Richard Ford. Coppinger also defeated handily his only March primary challenger, perennial Republican candidate Basil Marceaux.

Coppinger won after navigating the county through a tough 19 months, starting with the bitter appointment deadlock.

Then Coppinger faced the challenge of negotiating with Chattanooga over an expiring sales tax agreement that left a $10.5 million hole in the county's budget. He shaved about $13 million from the spending plan, laying off 36 employees.

This year he presented a budget that gave county workers a 3 percent raise without a property tax increase.

Carter, a lawyer, left county government in January 2011 to return to private practice.

He opted not to challenge Coppinger for mayor, but later zeroed in on the state House's newly drawn District 29, which is now solidly Republican.

Carter, 58, became the sole candidate for the seat, currently held by JoAnne Favors, who was redrawn into the 28th House district. He ran a contested race in 1998 and said this uncontested election was a nice change of pace.

"It also impresses on you the obligation to make sure all parties, all persons, every area feels like they get adequate representation," Carter said. "There's a lot of pressing issues facing the state. I'm happy to help in any way I can."

After clearing Thursday's primary, all that remains between Carter and Nashville is an unopposed November general election.

Coppinger will be sworn in after the election is certified. He will make $151,006 a year.

Those who win state legislative seats will be sworn in January. Representatives make $19,009, plus per diem.

about Ansley Haman...

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 ...

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