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 Hamilton County primary election.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seeking his first full term as the county's executive, but he won't enjoy a walk-in election like 13 other incumbent county officials.
Coppinger is being challenged in the May 6 Republican primary by perennial candidate and one-time Internet sensation Basil Marceaux. Marceaux is also challenging Gov. Bill Haslam for the GOP gubernatorial nod. Candidate Richard Ford is running for the mayor's post as an independent. He will face the winner of the Republican primary in August.
If he gets the Republican vote, and wins the general election on Aug. 7, Coppinger will continue to focus on strengthening public education in the county, bringing more jobs to the area and keeping the county's budget lean and mean, he said.
"In the last three years, we've put close to $100 million into new and expanded schools in Hamilton County. Better education means better jobs," he said. "I've done three budgets; none of those three budgets have included any property tax increase. I am a strong proponent of being conservative with the county's dollars."
Coppinger was first elected as a District 3 commissioner in 2006. In 2010 he won a special election to finish former Mayor Claude Ramsey's term when Ramsey became the state's lieutenant governor.
Attracting jobs to the county is about the only goal Marceaux shares with Coppinger - although he has a decidedly different plan.
Marceaux says he wants to start a program to help county youths get employed.
"People get in trouble because they have no money. We do everything we can to send jobs out of our areas. So I will need to give them something to do to stay out of trouble," Marceaux said.
If Marceaux is ultimately elected mayor, he would also do his best to stop mandatory emission testing for local vehicles.
"I'm going to stop the emissions program. If our county has it and the county next door doesn't have it, it's like we are living in two different countries," Marceaux said. "It's a tool of mass destruction for my local citizens. I have five cars ... they are all paid for, but I can't drive them on the road because they can't pass emissions."
County commissioners voted to make emission testing mandatory in 2005 to avoid federal penalties after the county failed to meet Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards.
If Marceaux is elected to be the Hamilton County mayor and the governor, he likely would move the capital from Nashville to Chattanooga, he said.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6481.