Chester Heathington Jr.
Russell Gilbert Sr.
Moses Freeman Jr.
Source: Hamilton County Election Commission
Just eight weeks from now, on March 5, Chattanooga voters will choose a new mayor and as many as seven new City Council members.
A total of 27 candidates are running for the nonpartisan mayor's chair and nine council seats.
Dr. Rick Wilson, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said the fields look to be competitive in every council district except 5 and 6, where Russell Gilbert Sr. and Carol Berz, respectively, are unopposed.
Wilson also said the mayoral run could turn into a real race and not the cakewalk that some expect for former state Sen. Andy Berke.
"I would say that's the case," Wilson said, noting there could be protest votes against Berke, a Democrat.
Berke faces former city employee Guy Satterfield and perennial candidate Chester Heathington Jr.
New faces are assured in Council Districts 1 and 2, where Deborah Scott and Sally Robinson chose not to run for re-election. The District 1 candidates include a former county school board member, the ex-principal of Signal Mountain Middle/High School and a leader of the unsuccessful move to oust Mayor Ron Littlefield.
The field in District 2 includes two former Chattanooga employees and the president of the Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee.
In District 4, incumbent Jack Benson is defending his seat against four challengers. Wilson said this race could be the biggest fight of Benson's political life.
At least two of Benson's challengers -- Tom Tomisek and Larry Grohn -- are well-connected politically and are better financed than the typical candidate, he said.
"That makes it one of the more interesting races Jack has ever faced," Wilson said.
In District 7, three newcomers are trying to unseat Manny Rico. In Districts 8 and 9, two well-known veterans are hoping to unseat incumbents.
Moses Freeman Jr., a former city employee and a civic leader and developer, is taking on District 8 incumbent Andraé McGary, falling back from a failed state Senate bid.
In District 9, longtime former council member Yusuf Hakeem hopes to topple Peter Murphy.
Berke spokeswoman Stacy Robinson said he has been campaigning steadily since he announced his run in May.
"We've been running the campaign a long time now," she said.
Heathington could not be reached for comment. Satterfield, who is self-financing his bid, said he knows it will be a tough fight against Berke, who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It's a steep hill, but it's not an impossible hill," Satterfield said. "Stranger things have happened."
Campaign signs are popping up along city streets, and billboards are being posted. Several candidates said they are sending out mailers and calling registered voters.
The time to campaign has begun.