Over the past two weeks, the Free Press editorial page made a series of endorsements in preparation for today's election. As a service to this page's readers, we compiled and, in certain cases, updated those endorsement in the hopes of helping voters make an informed decision in the voting booth.
Our candidate endorsements are based on our judgment of each candidate's competence and ability to succeed in the position for which he or she is running, as well as our assessment about his or her commitment to the conservative principles of limited government, low taxes, fiscal restraint and individual responsibility.
In addition to our candidate endorsements, we took a stance on two ballot questions - the Chattanooga audit ordinance and the Bradley County wheel tax proposal. Those recommendations are based on which outcome will result in a more accountable and responsible government for the residents of Chattanooga and Bradley County.
If a race is not included below, it was either uncontested or we did not endorse a candidate.
• United States Senate: Bob Corker
Bob Corker began his career in the Senate with several very fiscally irresponsible votes, including bailouts for banks. Yet he voted against bailouts for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Over the past three years, however, few members of the Senate have been more conservative. His votes against the stimulus and efforts to end earmarks, as well his efforts to cap federal spending and address the debt, are worthy of praise.
• United States House of Representatives, 3rd Congressional District: Chuck Fleischmann
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is a strong conservative with a record of voting to trim the federal budget and a solid plan to eliminate the capital gains tax for two years, which would help to jump start the economy. His support of pouring money into Oak Ridge National Laboratory does little to help taxpayers at this end of the district. Overall, however, Fleischmann has committed no fireable offenses.
• Tennessee Senate, 10th Senatorial District: No endorsement
This page initially endorsed Greg Vital over Todd Gardenhire based on our belief that Vital was slightly more likely to champion free market economic policies than his opponent. In the days since our endorsement, however, we have grown tired of Vital's alleged dirty campaign tactics and misrepresentations. As a result, we take no position on this race.
• Tennessee House of Representatives, 27th Representative District: Richard Floyd
State House member Richard Floyd has done little to distinguish himself in Nashville, and he is far from the most fiscally conservative lawmaker in the state. Still, his stances are generally rooted in free market, limited government principles.
• County Mayor: Jim Coppinger
During recent tough fiscal times for the county, incumbent Jim Coppinger chose to close a budget shortfall through attrition, rather than calling for tax hikes. The leaner county government now costs taxpayers millions less, with no noticeable impact in the quality of service county residents receive.
• County Commission, District 3: Marty Haynes
While Democrat Mitzi Yates has a number of praiseworthy ideas to make county government more transparent and accountable, Marty Haynes' policy proposals for spurring the Hamilton County economy give him the edge. He is committed to promoting low taxes, trimming wasteful spending and streamlining government.
• Assessor of Property: Bill Bennett
Bill Bennett, the county property assessor since 1994, has proven fair and reliable. His method for running the assessor's office is considered a model for other counties seeking to learn how to appraise property accurately and efficiently.
• General Sessions Court Judge: Gary Starnes
In a close race featuring a number of highly qualified candidates, longtime Chattanooga attorney Gary Starnes stands out with a clear and realistic vision for how the court can improve.
General Sessions Court judges have been roundly criticized for their lackadaisical attitudes towards the court. Starnes' commitment to putting in the hours needed to do the job effectively is exactly what is needed to bring respectability to the court.
• School Board, District 1: Rhonda Thurman
During her time on the school board, Rhonda Thurman has fought for greater transparency and more educational options for students. Perhaps most importantly, she has been the one school board member consistently willing to ask, "is that a good use of taxpayers hard-earned money?".
Thurman is both a valuable watchdog for all Hamilton County taxpayers and a powerful advocate for the students of her district.
• School Board, District 2: Jonathan Welch
Jonathan Welch is graduate of District 2 schools and his own children are now students at Thrasher Elementary. As an involved parent, he will be a refreshing outside voice that still possesses a great deal of knowledge about the school system and familiarity with the issues facing educators.
• School Board, District 7: Donna Horn
The race for the school board's 7th District seat between former teacher Donna Horn and former teacher and principal Ralph Miller features two exceptional candidates.
Voters won't go wrong either way, but the recently retired Horn has a slight advantage in our view since she has more current classroom experience than Miller. Plus, Horn brings a much-needed female voice to the school board.
• Ordinance No. 12566: Against
The current City of Chattanooga auditing system is seriously flawed. Since the city's audit director reports to the mayor, he can't audit anything related to the mayor independently. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Unfortunately, this proposed ordinance to create a new city audit structure creates serious problems of accountability. The ordinance sets up the current city auditor with a job for life with the probability of a huge pay increase. In order to replace the city auditor, four out of five fellow CPAs - appointed by special interest groups - have to agree to fire him. It's unlikely that would ever happen.
Rather than replacing one bad system with another, voters should vote against the ordinance and force the city council back to the drawing board.
• Wheel Tax Referendum: No
Wheel tax supporters' arguments for installing a $32 annual tax on vehicles are absurd. They claim they need to raise nearly $35 million to fund three school construction projects because schools are overcrowded. However, two of the three projects add little, if any, additional capacity for the school district.
This is one of the silliest money grabs we've ever seen and we encourage voters to reject this regressive and ridiculous tax.