Chattanooga City Council District 7 candidate Erskine Oglesby says his opponent's claims that he is "propped up" by failed mayoral hopeful Larry Grohn, a tea party Republican, are ridiculous.
Councilman Chris Anderson linked Oglesby and Grohn in a mailer sent in the final week of early voting for the April 11 runoff election. In the March 7 contest, Anderson fell just short of a majority in the District 7 race and Oglesby came in second, forcing a runoff.
"Larry Grohn has absolutely, positively nothing to do with my campaign," Oglesby said Thursday. "I think the runoff election should be about our vision and he [Anderson] chose to use deceptive ads."
Grohn, who ends a four-year term on the City Council in mid-April, said in a statement he has taken "personal offense" to Anderson for "dragging me into his runoff campaign with the malicious statements he knows are untrue." He has not contributed or supported the Oglesby campaign "in any way," he said.
Anderson said he has facts to back up his claims. He said neighbors told him they saw the pair knocking on doors together in November and that Oglesby now uses the same Alton Park office space that Grohn's mayoral campaign rented. They both hired the services of Republican political operative Dalton Temple, Anderson said.
On Friday, Temple said he is not a Republican political operative because the state does not have a registry for political affiliations.
"I work both sides of the aisle," he said.
Temple is a former vice president of the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club. He admitted to voting in the recent 2017 Hamilton County Republican Party reorganization meeting to choose its new suite of leaders, after first stating he couldn't recall when he last attended a Republican Party meeting and initially refusing to answer whether he voted to choose the party's new leaders.
According to party bylaws, a citizen must be a "bonafide" Republican or otherwise prove allegiance to the Republican party to participate in its caucus.
Both Oglesby and Grohn said they never campaigned together and he rented the space from J.T. McDaniel after Grohn's lease ended.
"I chose the space because it was great location to reach out to East Lake, Piney Woods, Alton Park and downtown," Oglesby said.
Oglesby does use consulting firm Hill City Strategies, which is owned by Temple, he said.
"I can't dictate who he does business with," Oglesby said.
Temple said he didn't work personally with Oglesby, but had assigned a staffer to him.
Anderson said otherwise, stating he has seen Temple canvassing his Jefferson Heights neighborhood recently.
Oglesby, who described himself as a "lifelong Democrat," said he appeals to diverse voters. He said he didn't want a race in which he and Anderson, also a Democrat, turned off Republican voters in the nonpartisan election.
Anderson pushed back on Grohn's assertion he has not supported Oglesby, noting his appearance at an Oglesby campaign fundraiser at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center last fall.
"He [Grohn] certainly hasn't appeared at any of my fundraisers," Anderson said. "I think any reasonable person would conclude Grohn supports Oglesby if he attends a fundraiser, much like they would conclude Mayor Andy Berke supports me when he attends one of my fundraisers," Anderson said.
Grohn said he had dropped by the fundraiser, but only because he had friends who attended and he was already downtown for a city council meeting. He also said he would "support just about anyone other than Chris Anderson" for the District 7 council seat.
Anderson's mailer also criticizes Oglesby for taking money from JMS-PAC, a payday lender PAC.
According to Oglesby's financial disclosures, he accepted $150 from the organization, about 1 percent of the $14,250 raised by his campaign.
"I didn't solicit the money," Oglesby said, adding he believed they offered him money for the same reason anyone gives money to a candidate — they believe he's best candidate to lead the district and serve on the council.
District 7 residents should expect to see a new Anderson mailer this weekend.
"It basically says Erskine Oglesby is a good guy, but he owes the wrong people," Anderson said.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.