Third District voters appeared to say “yes” to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s negative campaigning, to his repeated disinterest in working across party lines and to his many “no” votes on legislation put forth by his proclaimed axis of evil, Obama, Pelosi and Reid, and award him the Republican party nomination for a third term in the House on Thursday night.
Despite a politics of personal destruction campaign that smeared challenger Weston Wamp, the only one of the two without a record, the Ooltewah attorney was holding a narrow district-wide lead despite nearly losing his home Hamilton County for the third straight primary.
In person, in flyers sent through the mail and on television commercials, Fleischmann portrayed his challenger as all but a liberal Democrat, as someone who agreed with President Obama on most issues, who was delighted to see thousands of illegal immigrants coming across the southern border and who would trash Second Amendment rights.
Wamp, a Chattanooga businessman who portrayed himself as a conservative but one who was willing to talk across the aisle and bring new blood into the party, chose not to highlight the incumbent’s light record but only to decry his negative campaign. Whether taking issue with his record would have worked is now moot, and the personally engaging Wamp was en route to losing two straight primaries to the incumbent.
The winner can as much as count on election in November since the district is drawn to be heavily Republican, and the winner’s November challenger will be Mary Headrick, the same candidate Fleischmann faced in the race two years ago.
Meanwhile, Chattanooga voters said resoundingly they’d prefer city benefits not be given to partners of unmarried straight and gay couples.
The one contested Republican primary, in District 27, saw Patsy Hazlewood easily defeat Tommy Crangle in a race in which some observers questioned Hazlewood’s GOP bona fides. She will now face Democrat Eric McRoy in November but is likely to go to Nashville in January since the district leans Republican.
Incredibly, contenders in all other local state House seats and one Senate seat have no opposition in November. That includes the open District 30 seat, where East Ridge Commissioner Marc Gravitt had no Republican primary foe and has no Democrat opponent in November.
County Mayor, Commission
Though the Hamilton County Commission will have two new faces, its makeup of eight Republicans and two Democrats will not change. New to the panel are Republican Randy Fairbanks, who easily fought off a write-in candidacy from Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman in District 1, and Sabrena Turner, whose opponent, Ezra Maize, did little campaigning, in District 7.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger, who had little opposition in the Republican primary or general election after having replaced Claude Ramsey in 2011, sailed to his first full term in office.
Law And Judiciary
For the first time since the Hamilton County public defender’s office was created 25 years ago, there will be a new face at its helm. Republican Steve Smith, a Hamilton County assistant district attorney, easily outpolled Ardena Garth, up to now the office’s only occupant.
In contested judiciary races, Christie Mahn Sell earned her second term as a Sessions Court judge, and Rob Philyaw was elected to a first full term as Juvenile Court judge.
In clerk’s races, retiring state Rep. Vince Dean narrowly defeated incumbent Gwen Tidwell, completing a sweep for Republicans — perhaps for the first time ever — in the Hamilton County Courthouse-centered positions.
Board of Education
The Hamilton County School Board will have two new members, with Karitsa Mosley (District 5) and Steve Highlander (District 9) winning open seats to join the body in helping set policies and procedures for and watching the finances of county schools.