published Friday, March 14th, 2014

Criminal Court clerk: 20-year incumbent challenged in primary

KEY DATES

Important dates for the Hamilton County primaries:

• Deadline to register to vote: April 7

• Absentee ballot request deadline: April 29

• Early Voting: April 16 - May 1

• County primary: May 6

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories about contested races in the May 6 county primary.

Democrats in Hamilton County will have to decide whether they will stand behind the 20-year incumbent Criminal Court clerk or vote in new blood.

Criminal Court Clerk Gwen Tidwell is facing opposition in the May 6 primary from Brian White of East Ridge.

State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, is leaving his District 30 seat to seek Tidwell’s seat. He does not have Republican opposition and will face either Tidwell or White in the August general election.

Tidwell said Tuesday residents should stick with her, because she knows the job inside and out.

“Even beyond the 20 years I’ve been doing it, I’m actually a licensed lawyer who practiced in these courts,” she said.

Tidwell practiced criminal and family law when she was a working attorney, and she said that experience has helped her run the office.

Citing domestic violence grants she’s sought that help share family violence case information between criminal and circuit courts to better protect victims of abuse, Tidwell said she’s been working to do more than file paper as the clerk.

“We are trying to connect the information with Circuit Court, Criminal Court and Juvenile Court,” she said. “Now we actually have people sitting in the courtrooms telling the judges what’s going on [in other courts].”

Tidwell also said her legal background has helped her understand the ins and outs of managing a staff of 64 people.

Attempts to contact White by phone on Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful. Messages left were not returned by Thursday at press time.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon @timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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