Marty Haynes defeats Mark Siedlecki in Hamilton County assessor race

Challenger campaigned on property tax freeze for seniors

Hamilton County property assessor Marty Haynes watches election returns as he is hugged by Cinnamon Smith and Ken Smith makes phone calls to monitor results at an election party at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Haynes defeated Democratic opponent Mark Siedlecki in the race for property assessor.

Vote totals

Marty Haynes (R) - 16,104Mark Siedlecki (D) - 12,158All vote totals are unofficial until certified by the Election Commission; some vote totals include write-in votes

Hamilton County general and Tennessee primary election stories

Republican Marty Haynes has defeated Democrat Mark Siedlecki in the Hamilton County Assessor of Property race.

"I am a blessed man to have the support of the quality people who worked on my campaign and to earn the trust of the citizens of Hamilton County," Haynes said.

Haynes received 16,104 votes to Siedlecki's 12,158 in unofficial returns.

The victory ended a week of escalating shots by the candidates, with Siedlecki targeting Haynes' character in social media attacks and the Hamilton County Republican Party chairman filing a campaign finance complaint against Siedlecki.

They were competing to replace Bill Bennett, a Republican who has held the office since 1994, and who did not seek re-election.

The assessor's duties include locating, classifying and valuing all properties in the county. The Hamilton County County Commission actually sets the property tax rate.

The assessor earns $120,013 annually.

Haynes, a businessman who serves as the District 3 Hamilton County commissioner, will vacate the seat before he is sworn in on Sept. 1.

Siedlecki, the owner and operator of a digital technology company, could not be reached for comment.

While both candidates called for modernizing the assessor's office, one issue dominated the campaign: the county's lack of a senior property tax freeze.

Although the assessor's office has no power to implement such a program, Siedlecki made the subject a core part of his platform and repeatedly challenged Haynes' voting record on the matter. Only the County Commission could adopt such a freeze. If it did so, senior citizens making less than $38,720 a year potentially could qualify.

Generally, the senior tax freeze program protects participants from higher tax bills due to increases in tax rates or property value.

"If one senior citizen loses their home because they can't pay their taxes, we are not doing our job as citizens of Hamilton County to take care of these people," Siedlecki said during the campaign.

Haynes countered that all residents, not just seniors, have benefited because property tax rates have not risen since 2007.

"I'm not opposed to [a senior tax freeze], but I'm not going to use it for political gain, either," Haynes said after one candidate forum this spring.

Haynes outraised and outspent Siedlecki by considerable margins, beginning July with $56,016 compared to the Democrat's $9,847. They each raised nearly $20,000 in the campaign's last month. Haynes spent $49,312 during July - more than double Siedlecki's expenditure of $21,888.

Haynes becomes the third assessor of property to take the seat after serving in the Hamilton County Commission, following in the footsteps of Bennett and Claude Ramsey, who later served as the Hamilton County mayor and deputy to Gov. Bill Haslam.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.