Peter Murphy sues to keep seat on Chattanooga City Council

Peter Murphy sues to keep seat on Chattanooga City Council

March 22nd, 2013 by Cliff Hightower in Local Regional News

Peter Murphy

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Yusuf Hakeem

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Peter Murphy took his fight to keep his District 9 Chattanooga City Council seat to court Thursday, asking a Hamilton County Chancery Court judge to order a runoff.

Murphy is contesting the results of the March 5 city election, which he lost by six votes to Yusuf Hakeem.

He and three city residents sued the Hamilton County Election Commission and Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, elections administrator. Murphy claims he "is entitled to be a candidate" in a runoff election, and city residents Jessie Phillips, Lettie McIntire and Olin Ivey assert they live in District 9 and "desire to vote" for him.

Murphy had no comment after the lawsuit was filed. Hakeem could not be reached for comment, but he has said his campaign is ready for a court challenge or a runoff.

Hamilton County Election Attorney Chris Clem said the commission has no problem with Murphy filing the lawsuit.

"The election commission has no specific position," he said.

Conflict emerged immediately after the race, when vote tallies showed neither Murphy nor Hakeem received the required 50-percent-plus-one of the votes cast. Hakeem took 49.98 percent of the vote, Murphy had 49.68 percent and there were seven write-ins.

The election commission voted to throw out two write-in votes that had check marks in place of candidate names. That put Hakeem over the top, with 50.024 percent of the vote.

Murphy's lawsuit argues the election commission certified all write-in votes, including the two that were not counted.

Clem said an audit and the election commission meeting minutes were clear the two votes did not count, even though they were posted on a computer printout.

Murphy is asking the court to order that a runoff be held April 9, the same day as the District 4 runoff between Jack Benson and Larry Grohn.