End of an era: Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern loses re-election bid

End of an era: Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern loses re-election bid

May 7th, 2014 by Kevin Hardy , Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Fred Skillern

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

COUNTY MAYOR WINS PRIMARY

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger defended his title in today's primary elections against challenger Basil Marceaux.

Coppinger walked away with 15,003 votes to defeat Marceaux, who earned 1,442 votes.

Coppinger was appointed county mayor in January 2011 after former Mayor Claude Ramsey left to join the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam, and was later elected mayor in a 2012 special election.

He will face off against independent candidate Richard Ford in the August general election.

HAMILTON COUNTY COMMISSION

District 1

Randy Fairbanks (R) -- 1,249

Fred Skillern (R) -- 1,198

District 2

* *Jim Fields (R) -- 1,628

District 3

* Marty Haynes (R) -- 2,091

District 4

Warren Mackey (D) -- 889

Pam Ladd (D) -- 305

Kirkland Robinson (D) -- 140

District 5

Greg Beck (D) -- 1,597

Isiah Hester (D) -- 724

District 6

* Joe Graham (R) -- 1,014

* John Brooks (D) -- 350

District 7

Sabrena Turner (R) -- 1,966

Phil Smartt (R) -- 744

Perry Perkins (R) -- 647

Ezra Maize (D) -- 238

Don Brown (D) -- 203

District 8

Tim Boyd (R) -- 883

Curtis Adams (R) -- 674

Brent Lambert (R) -- 468

* Kenny Smith (D) -- 498

District 9

* Chester Bankston (R) -- 1,865

* Melinda Bone (D) -- 306

* Unopposed

Note: All results are unofficial until certified by the Election Commission.

Tuesday marked the end of an era for Hamilton County politics.

"I guess my kind of politics is over. I've always been very independent, and I guess I've voted independent so long, I got enough people to run against me," said Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern.

When the votes came in Tuesday, Skillern had lost his Republican primary bid by 51 votes to challenger Randy Fairbanks, a CPA from Soddy-Daisy.

Skillern bagged 1,198 votes -- or 49 percent of the vote -- while Fairbanks pulled in 1,249 -- giving him 51 percent. Write-ins made up less than 1 percent.

With no Democratic candidate for the post, that means Fairbanks is set to glide into the District 1 commission seat after the Aug. 7 general election. Tuesday's results are unofficial until the Hamilton County Election Commission certifies them.

Fairbanks said he had a great deal of respect for Skillern, but residents wanted new blood.

"I respect Mr. Skillern, he's worked hard for a number of years and done a lot of good work for District 1," Fairbanks said. "The people of District 1 just said they were ready for some new leadership, and that's what we are going to offer -- that's what they chose."

Skillern has served on commission since 2001, when he was appointed to replace Jim Vincent. He won election to the body in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

But his years in public service stretch back decades.

He was first appointed to a 7-year school board term in 1976 after narrowly losing a bid for another at-large school board seat months before, according to newspaper archives. He lost a commission race in 1982, but served on the county school board through 1996, a stint that included several years as chairman. In total, he has served 33 years in office, he said.

The District 1 results were a surprise to some of Skillern's fellow commissioners who successfully defended their posts.

"Are you kidding me?" Democratic Commissioner Warren Mackey said after hearing the news of Skillern's loss. "That's a shakeup right there. I did not see that happening."

Commissioner Tim Boyd said Skillern's loss, along with his own defeat of former long-time Commissioner Curtis Adams signaled a new direction for county politics.

"It's a changing of the guard," Boyd said. "You had a certain political structure in Hamilton County, and the torch is being passed."

Boyd said he, Fairbanks and District 7 Republican candidate Sabrena Turner campaigned on transparency. And Skillern took a big blow in March when he instructed county Mayor Jim Coppinger to hold private talks about new school construction projects, rather than discuss them in public.

"We need to be open," Boyd said. "And I think that's what the voters are looking for."

Boyd said he'll now turn his attention to uniting District 8 Republicans for his August election against Democrat Kenny Smith.

OTHER DISTRICT HIGHLIGHTS

Turner took the District 7 Republican post with 58 percent of the vote.

Turner took 1,966 votes. Her challengers, Phil Smartt and Perry Perkins, took 744 and 647 votes respectively.

As the results came in Tuesday, Turner's win was obvious. She thanked God, her family -- and her team of campaign workers.

"We've really gotten out there and met the people and listened to them," Turner said. "It was a very competitive race. I worked hard, and I had a tremendous team who worked just as hard as I did. I owe a lot of people thanks."

Candidate Ezra Maize won the Democratic spot with 238 votes. That accounted for 54 percent of the vote. His opponent, Don Brown, had 203 votes, or 46 percent.

Some commissioners were spared primary competition but still must focus on the August general election.

Incumbent District 6 Commissioner Joe Graham will face former Democrat Commissioner John Allen Brooks in the general election. And Republican District 9 Commissioner Chester Bankston will also face Democrat challenger Melinda Bone.

Only Commissioners Jim Fields and Marty Haynes got a pass this election cycle. Neither was challenged in the primary, and neither faces Democrat opposition in August.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6249.

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