Recallers gather enough to force election

Recallers gather enough to force election

August 28th, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in Politics Local

An effort to oust Mayor Ron Littlefield has forced the first Chattanooga mayor recall in history.

"We don't stop," said Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield. "We're going to keep getting names, we're going to keep getting signatures."

Election officials confirmed late Friday they had counted 9,071 valid signatures out of 14,078 submitted. The number needed to force the recall is 8,935.

Recall groups have until 4 p.m. Monday to turn in more signatures.

Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, the Chattanooga Tea Party and Chattanooga Organized for Action have been working for months to oust Littlefield over a 19 percent property tax increase in June and a stormwater fee hike in April.

Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, administrator of elections, said the Hamilton County Election Commission could meet early next week to officially certify the numbers.

"It probably goes to court," she said, just minutes after counting the last signature on Friday.

Littlefield's spokesman, Richard Beeland, didn't say Friday whether the mayor would contest the issue in court. He said Littlefield plans to "absolutely run again and run harder than ever."

Questions have been raised about whether state law or the City Charter controls how many signatures are required to force the issue to a vote. Under state law, the number of required signatures is about 16,000.

Beeland said Friday the mayor would not comment until the election commission acts.

"The election commission verifies it when they meet and we'll see when they meet," he said.

Mark West, president of the Chattanooga Tea Party, said he is sure the court system will expedite the matter if that's where it lands.

"We would hope the court realizes the seriousness of the will of the people," he said.

West and Chris Brooks, an organizer for Chattanooga Organized for Action, said they expect the recall effort would prevail in court.

"We think we've done everything to the letter of the law," West said.

Election officials have said there is a tight timetable leading up to the Nov. 2 general election.

Any potential mayoral candidates must qualify by Sept. 9. The ballots are to go to the printer by Sept. 14.

Election officials have said the mayor will continue to serve until the general election.