Mayor Ron Littlefield might sit out recall election

Mayor Ron Littlefield might sit out recall election

November 19th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, shown speaking at a tourism press conference in August, says he may choose not to run if a recall election takes place in August.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

MAYOR RECALL KEY DATES


Jan. 6, 2012

Candidates can pick up qualifying petitions

April 5, 2012

Deadline for petitions

Aug. 2, 2012

Recall election for Chattanooga mayor

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

POLL: Should Mayor Littlefield run in a recall election?

Mayor Ron Littlefield may choose not to run if a recall election takes place in August.

"I don't know yet," Littlefield said Friday. "For seven months? Why would I put my family through all this for a seven-month term?"

Just weeks ago, the two-term Chattanooga mayor was moving into his last 16 months in office, pushing for metropolitan government or some type of city-county consolidation that he hoped to make the legacy of his administration.

Now a recall effort that seemed all but dead threatens to cut short his term and give him a very different kind of legacy.

At this point, an election for Chattanooga mayor has been scheduled by the Hamilton County Election Commission for Aug. 2, 2012.

Even if he ran in and won an August election, Littlefield is term-limited and could not be a candidate in the regular election in March 2013.

Littlefield said he has yet to make a decision. But he said some factors could sway him. A field offering strong potential leaders for the city could deter him from running, he said.

"If I see someone who is a good leader, it would be a consideration," he said.

Though the election commission certified the recall petition and set an election date, other action may intervene. Littlefield has asked the state Court of Appeals to reconsider a recent decision that allowed the election commission to act.

He also could ask the Tennessee Supreme Court whether a recall election should be held.

Last year, Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, the Chattanooga Tea Party and Chattanooga Organized for Action began the movement to oust Littlefield. They cited gang violence, property tax and stormwater rate increases and a perception of corruption within City Hall as reasons.

The groups gathered more than 15,000 signatures, and 9,600 were certified. The City Charter states that around 9,000 signatures were needed for a recall election.

But part of Littlefield's argument has been that state law should dictate the number of signatures required. State law calls for a much higher threshold, more than 15,000 valid signatures.

A FIELD CONSIDERING

Some possible candidates who have expressed interest in the March 2013 mayoral election said Friday they still are considering whether they would run if there's an election in August 2012.

Whoever wins in August -- except Littlefield -- would have to run again in March 2013.

POLL: Who should be Chattanooga's next mayor?

People who have expressed interest include Pam Ladd, City Council chairwoman; County Commissioner Warren Mackey; Kim White, president and CEO of RiverCity Co.; Roger Tuder, executive director for the Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee; local businessman Greg Vital; and Jim Folkner, head of Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield. Todd Womack, chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Ladd said Friday she would "absolutely" consider a run in August, regardless of what Littlefield does.

Meanwhile, the council is considering seeking legal advice as to whether Littlefield should leave office immediately. Based upon an interpretation of the City Charter, Ladd could be installed as temporary mayor until the recall election.

Ladd stressed Friday that any votes she makes would not be for her own advantage and she will recuse herself from votes regarding an ouster if there appears to be a conflict of interest.

She said there are advantages to running in August.

"You get your name out there," she said. "It shows you are interested in public service."

She said the recall election puts more pressure on potential candidates to get their names out if they do decide to run.

"It's time to make a decision," she said.

Mackey said he had expected a March 2013 election and still is weighing his decision.

"It caught everyone off guard and has sped up everyone's time schedule," he said.

White said she would not run in August if Littlefield does. She said the possibility of a recall election sends a negative message about Chattanooga to those who live outside the city. White said there is no doubt the election commission's decision, along with any subsequent legal wrangling, provides a slew of considerations for candidates.

Tuder said he is considering the options.

"To make the decision in a day, I don't think it would do the position justice," he said.

Vital, president and CEO of Independent Healthcare Properties, said he has to weigh family and business considerations before stepping into a race. But moving the election to August would not deter him, he said.

"The recall is turning into a fiasco, an expense and creating a void of leadership in the city, and it's got me majorly concerned," he said.

Folkner, who is being considered for a position as Red Bank city manager, also said he is weighing his decision.

Womack said court decisions need to be made.

"With so much uncertainty right now, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to make a lot of comments," he said.

"A RARITY"

To complicate things even more, it might take two elections in August and two more in March to settle finally on a mayor.

Candidates for city office must earn 50 percent of the vote plus one to win outright. If no candidate in August hits that mark, a runoff election would have to be held within 30 days, said Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, administrator of elections.

"This is such a rarity," Mullis-Morgan said, referring to the recall election. "This has never happened before."

Then the whole thing could happen again in March.

But the power of incumbency, even for seven months, would have an effect on the March race, said Dr. Richard Wilson, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"They would have seven months of publicity," he said.

He said only one thing now can derail the train of events.

"There's going to be an election unless a judge or a panel of judges decides to issue an injunction," he said.

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