Local tea party removes itself from effort to recall Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson

Local tea party removes itself from effort to recall Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson

February 4th, 2014 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Chris Anderson

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Document: Chris Anderson Recall Petition

A citizen's petition to recall Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson.

A local tea party group is distancing itself from an effort to recall Chattanooga District 7 Councilman Chris Anderson.

The Hamilton County Election Commission is expected to review a petition next week that seeks to hold a recall vote for Anderson during the August county primary or November general election. Residents leading the effort have said Anderson, the city's first openly gay councilman, does not share their beliefs and has not represented them well.

Despite local tea party group Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency's name and address appearing on a draft of the petition, Mark West, the group's president, says the group is not involved.

CGAT did lead an earlier effort to have a referendum over same-sex partner benefits in Chattanooga, a move spearheaded by Anderson, but this new recall attempt is separate, West said.

"The tea party and CGAT are not leading this recall effort. I think there was probably just a presumption that because we were involved in the overall effort to seek a referendum on same-sex partner benefits in the city that we would be involved with this," he said. "It couldn't be further from the truth."

Pastor and conservative activist Charlie Wysong took responsibility for the confusion Monday. He said he didn't have West's OK to list CGAT or West's email on the draft petition.

"It was my fault. I was being pressed to get a petition in by last Friday, and with that I had to have information on the bottom of the petition. Mark [West] was out of town. I thought he wouldn't mind, but he did. It was my fault," Wysong said.

West said the tea party does support the right of residents to recall any politician. But in this case, the local group is focusing on more fiscal issues.

"I would certainly support their right, and many folks might agree whole-heartedly with the effort. But agreeing, and leading and participating are very different things," he said.

Anderson has charged that the recall effort is only backed by a small number of people in his district, which includes parts of Alton Park, downtown, East Lake and St. Elmo. He says the bulk of its support has come from conservative groups in other parts of the city -- or even outside it.

On Monday, Anderson said West saying that people just presumed the tea party was involved in the recall effort may be a bit too soft.

"It was boldly announced at the election commission and the follow-up meetings that the tea party supported this," Anderson said. "But I appreciate Mark [West] saying that, 10 days after the petition was filed."

West said he was out of town when the recall effort got started and he couldn't speak to what some members did during that time.

Anderson said while he's glad to hear the tea party is not going to be pushing the recall, he's not dropping his guard.

"Not at all. I'm still going to continue to aggressively fight the recall," Anderson said.

Alton Park Neighborhood Association President Gill Shropshire, one of the District 7 residents involved in the recall, resents the idea -- and assertion -- that he and his neighbors need outside help. He says Anderson is not taking them seriously.

"We the people of Alton Park, and Piney Woods and East Lake, we don't appreciate [Anderson] saying we aren't smart enough to do what we say we are going to do. The way he's insinuating, is that we are dumb and can't do it ourselves," Shropshire said.

Shropshire and his neighbors say Anderson has not paid enough attention to their community in his first nine months of office -- a charge Anderson strongly contests.

The local recall organizers are going to plan a meeting later this week to retake and clarify the message, Shropshire said.

As for tea party members involved in the effort, particularly Wysong, Shropshire said they were only helping the Alton Park community with advice about how to file a petition.

"All they did was help us with legal advice. We are standing our own ground , and all they did was give us that advice," Shropshire said.

Election commissioners will review the latest draft of the recall petition on Feb. 13. If approved, residents will have until April 29 to collect 1,600 signatures in District 7.

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