In Thursday's general election and Republican primary, the Free Press endorses:
Governor: Bill Haslam
U.S. Senator: Lamar Alexander
3rd District Congress: Weston Wamp
27th District, State House: Patsy Hazlewood
County Mayor: Jim Coppinger
County Commission District 1: Randy Fairbanks
District 6: Joe Graham
District 7: Sabrena Turner
District 8: Kenny Smith
District 9: Chester Bankston
General Sessions Court, Division: 1 Christie Sell
Juvenile Court: Rob Philyaw
Public Defender: Steve Smith
Criminal Court Clerk: Gwen Tidwell
District 3: Greg Martin
District 5: Patrick Hampton
District 6: Ballard Scearce
District 8: David Testerman
District 9: Steve Highlander
Supreme Court Judges: Retain
Domestic Partners Ordinance: Against
Hazlewood No Patsy
One of the interesting and ridiculous sidelights of the District 27 primary race for state representative is whether Republican primary candidate Patsy Hazlewood actually is a Republican.
Blogs and letters to the editor accuse her of being a Democrat, at worst, or a RINO (Republican in name only), at best. Some even claim to know for whom she voted in specific Democrat presidential primaries, something not possible unless she told them.
A May letter from Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders - who must verify the Republican status of all GOP candidates who file - to Hazlewood should have put these rumors to rest, saying "your voting record more than satisfies the criteria to be considered a 'bona fide' Republican," but still the rumors persist.
State and county Republican bylaws require the candidate must be "a citizen who is actively involved in the county or state Republican Party; a citizen who has voted in at least two of the four most recent state and/or local Republican primary elections, or a citizen who signs the Declaration of Affiliation to the Republican Party."
Hazlewood notes Tennessee is a "free choice state," so Republicans can vote in Democrat primaries and vice versa. Indeed, she says she "did not vote for the sitting president" [in any primary] and, in fact, "has voted against him three times."
A second rumor has her being the handpicked candidate of Gov. Bill Haslam, for whom she served as a regional director of economic and community development. One letter writer even referred to her candidacy as a "quid pro quo" (something for something in Latin) for her job in Haslam's administration.
"Unequivocally, I can say he [Haslam] had nothing to do with me running for this office," she says. "I did tell him as a courtesy, but I was not recruited."
With less than a week to go before the general election and with her attractive conservative bonafides, Hazlewood shouldn't have to explain herself. But in these hyperpartisan days, even being who you are is not good enough.
With four days left in early voting last week, a summary report from the Hamilton County Election Commission showed nearly three times as many people had voted in the Republican primary (10,233) as the Democrat primary (3,447).
While that shows the weakness of the Democrat ballot (no opposition to state representatives in Districts 26, 29 and 30, no opposition for the state senator in District 11, one candidate for U.S. House District 3 and no truly strong candidates for U.S. senator and Tennessee governor), it might also show something else.
It could show Democrats are legally crossing over and voting in the Republican primary, hoping to influence the outcome of the District 3 congressional primary race between incumbent Chuck Fleischmann and Weston Wamp. The winner of that race will be heavily favored over unopposed Democrat Mary Headrick in the fall.
Time will tell.
Yolanda Echols Mitchell, who is challenging Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw in Thursday's general election, is vying for her third judicial post in the last two years, but she has a long way to go equal Chattanooga attorney Robert T. Davis.
Mitchell, a former Hamilton County magistrate, was a candidate in the August 2012 race for General Sessions Court judge, finishing third. That seven-way race was won by Gary Starnes. She then applied for another General Sessions Court seat in late 2012 when Judge Ron Durby stepped down, but Lila Statom was appointed and is running unopposed for election to a full term in this week's contest.
Davis, who coincidentally also served three terms as a magistrate, ran for Hamilton County district attorney in 1982 (when Gary Gerbitz was re-elected), for the now-defunct position of Chattanooga fire and police commissioner in 1987 (when Tom Kennedy was elected), for Chattanooga city judge in 1991 (when Walter Williams was elected), for General Sessions Court judge in 1998 (when Mike Carter was elected), for Chattanooga city judge in 1999 (when Walter Williams was re-elected) and for General Sessions Court judge in 2006 (when Christie Sell was elected).
In addition to serving as Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman in 2004, he also applied for the open positions of Chattanooga city judge in 2003 (when John Millican was appointed), Hamilton County administrator of elections in 2005 (when Bud Knowles was appointed) and General Sessions Court judge in 2012 (when Statom was appointed).