Cooper: Mayor Andy Berke's election 'results' mixed

Candidates associated with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke won one race and lost two in Thursday's election.
Candidates associated with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke won one race and lost two in Thursday's election.

Hamilton County general and Tennessee primary election stories

Observations from the last 2016 election before November's presidential contest between the two least liked candidates in modern history sucks all of the air out of the political world:

* Candidates who work for, worked for or who were backed by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke won one race but lost a pair Thursday.

While Melody Shekari, a 28-year-old former fellow in the mayor's office, won her Democratic primary to face three-term incumbent Chuck Fleischmann in Tennessee's 3rd congressional district in November, Nick Wilkinson, the mayor's deputy administrator of economic development, was upset by Highland Park neighborhood activist Khristy Wilkinson in the Democratic primary for state Senate District 10, and Democratic businessman Mark Siedlecki was beaten by Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Marty Haynes in the race for Hamilton County assessor of property.

Shekari, in an interview with the Times Free Press editorial board before the election, said she had worked on projects involved with transportation, distracted driving and short-term vacation rentals while in the mayor's office.

Nick Wilkinson not only received $8,500 from Berke's Three Star PAC, but he received a $1,000 contribution from the mayor, and the mayor hosted a fundraiser for him.

Siedlecki also received $2,500 from Berke's Three Star PAC, and his campaign was managed by City Councilman and Berke disciple Chris Anderson.

* Some months ago, incumbent District 10 state Sen. Todd Gardenhire opined that he wouldn't be surprised if Khristy Wilkinson, not Nick Wilkinson, would be his general election opponent. The Republican was quiet about his reasoning, but he proved to be prophetic.

Nick Wilkinson, as evidenced in an examination of election results, did not find a solid area of support in the district that slices through Chattanooga and circles but does not encompass the city of Cleveland in Bradley County.

In Hamilton County precincts where more than 30 votes were cast, Wilkinson won only Brainerd, East Chattanooga 2, Lookout Mountain, North Chattanooga 1, North Chattanooga 2, Ridgeside, Rivermont, Westview 1, Westview 3 and Woodmore - many of those wealthy areas - and tied in one other precinct (and got 35 percent across District 10).

Khristy Wilkinson, the self-proclaimed "Bernie Sanders Democrat" who raised $2,835 to Nick Wilkinson's $79,455, won or tied in every other Hamilton County precinct in which more than 30 votes were cast, and also won Bradley County (for 44 percent across District 10). Ty O'Grady, a Bradley County resident who described himself as a "libertarian Democrat," raised and spent nothing on the race but finished with a not inconsequential 22 percent of the vote.

* Many thought this might be the year District 1 Board of Education representative Rhonda Thurman lost her post, but she proved equal to the task and then some. The woman with the self-proclaimed "PhD." (professional hair dresser) won all but one of the district's 14 precincts, and the one she lost (Dallas 2) she lost by only one vote. Indeed, she had almost 500 more votes than her two opponents combined.

School board chairman Dr. Jonathan Welch, who turned down campaign contributions in his re-election bid, lost his District 2 post to Kathy Lennon by 98 votes. He won three of four Signal Mountain precincts but lost significantly off the mountain in Red Bank and Stuart Heights.

Tiffanie Robinson outdistanced two campaigning opponents and one non-campaigning opponent in District 4 by rolling up precinct wins in East Lake, East Side, Kingspoint, Murray Hills, and Ridgedale 1 and 2.

Joe Wingate, in District 7, swept to wins in 15 of 16 precincts, losing only Ooltewah 2 by five votes to incumbent Donna Horn.

* We did not make an endorsement in the Republican primary race for Congress in Tennessee's 4th District, but if we had it would have been for U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais.

By now, people of the sprawling district have heard more about his previous personal life than they want, and they have either forgiven him, rationalized his behavior or decided they could never support him. They also, despite his past, know where he stands today on the issues. For a challenger like Grant Starrett to attempt to portray him as someone other than a conservative did not fool voters.

Starrett, a telegenic lawyer new to Tennessee after living most of his life in California, tried to paint DesJarlais as supportive of Planned Parenthood, a foe of pro-life issues and a proponent for higher food stamp spending. However, except in the case of occasional spending votes which often can be misrepresented, the incumbent's record has been in line with his constituents.

DesJarlais faces Steven Reynolds, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, in November, a race he should have little problem winning.

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