Fred Skillern loss biggest surprise in tame primary election

Fred Skillern loss biggest surprise in tame primary election

May 6th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Fred Skillern

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Voters knocked off one Hamilton County Commission incumbent on Tuesday night and all but assured its body will have a woman in its next term for the first time since 2006.

Randy Fairbanks, an accountant who campaigned on being involved and accessible, knocked off three-term Commissioner Fred Skillern in District 1, which covers Soddy-Daisy and much of the north end of the county.

He had hit the incumbent on hoarding much of his discretionary fund, which is given to all commissioners. He also said, however, his voting record will probably differ little from Skillern's.

The race was close, 1,249 for Fairbanks to 1,198 for Skillern.

Sabrena Turner, a Realtor who boasted about her involvement in a 2009 annexation suit and claimed to be "for the people," easily outdistanced former Hamilton County School Board member Phil Smartt and community activist Perry Perkins to win the District 7 Republican primary on Tuesday night.

Impressively, her vote total was more than that of Smartt and Perkins combined.

In the August general election, she will face Ezra Maize, pastor of Friendship Community Church and a former Knoxville mayoral candidate, who won the Democratic primary.

The East Brainerd/Ooltewah/Apison district, though, is heavily Republican. Turner would be the first woman on the Commission since Charlotte Vandergriff and JoAnne Favors, now a state representative, gave up their seats eight years ago.

In other contested commission races, incumbents Warren Mackey (District 4) and Greg Beck (District 5) were returned to office, both earning more than double the number of votes of their closest opponent. Neither has opposition in August's primary.

In District 8, incumbent Tim Boyd knocked off former longtime Commissioner Curtis Adams, and East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert to win the Republican primary. However, he will face a formidable foe in August, former School Board member Kenny Smith.

Neither Republican incumbent Joe Graham and his Democratic challenger, former Commissioner John Allen Brooks, in District 6, nor Republican incumbent Chester Bankston and his Democratic challenger, Melinda Bone, in District 9, had primary opposition. Their fates will be decided in August.

District 2 Commissioner Jim Fields and District 3 Commissioner Marty Haynes did not have primary or general election opponents, so both have won a second term.

In open judicial seats, Pam McNutt Fleenor easily defeated Joe Manuel for Chancellor, Part 1, and J.B. Bennett had no trouble knocking off Catherine Cate White for Circuit Court, Division 1. Both winners had more than twice as many votes as their opponents.

Outside of the County Commission and judges races, Hamilton County voters chose not to make any changes, re-electing incumbent Sheriff Jim Hammond to a second term and Register of Deeds Pam Hurst to a sixth.

Hammond took more than twice as many votes as Chris Harvey, a member of the Sheriff's Office who tried to make a case that morale in the department below the command staff was the worst he'd seen in his tenure.

Hurst easily surpassed Ryan Epperson, a corrections officer at the Hamilton County Jail who admitted Hurst had done a good job in the position.

Voters also gave County Mayor Jim Coppinger a resounding win over perennial candidate - and gubernatorial candidate - Basil Marceaux in the Republican primary. The incumbent mayor will face independent Richard Ford in the general election.

In the open race for Circuit Court Clerk, three-term County Commissioner Larry Henry parlayed his popularity and name recognition to an easy win over attorney Lisa Zarzour Bowman and Sheriff Deputy Capt. Ron Parson.

Voters also chose incumbent Gwen Tidwell as the Democratic nominee for Criminal Court Clerk over Brian White, who did very little campaigning. In August, she will face Republican state Rep. Vince Dean, who left a safe Tennessee House seat to make the race. Dean was unopposed in the Republican primary.