2017 Chattanooga election results stories
- Two City Council seats headed for runoffs; Anthony Byrd upsets Moses Freeman in District 8 race
- Andy Berke wins second term as Chattanooga mayor
- Anthony Byrd defeats incumbent Moses Freeman to take City Council's District 8 seat
- Yusuf Hakeem to face Demetrus Coonrod in runoff for District 9 City Council seat
- Chris Anderson will face Erskine Oglesby in runoff for District 7 City Council seat
- Russell Gilbert wins re-election for District 5 City Council seat
- Jerry Mitchell beats Mickey McCamish in race for Chattanooga's District 2 City Council seat
- Chip Henderson wins re-election to City Council's District 1
- Ken Smith, Darrin Ledford, Carol Berz win unopposed
The moment early vote numbers went public when the polls closed on Tuesday, it was hard not to think Andy Berke had sailed to a second term as Chattanooga's mayor.
Less than an hour later his re-election was confirmed, and not long after that the mayor was delivering his victory speech. But Election Day was about more than the mayoral race.
While Berke was basking in the glory of another resounding win, one sitting councilman, Moses Freeman, was coming to terms with the reality that he'd been ousted by a political upstart, while two other councilmen, Yusuf Hakeem and Chris Anderson, were no doubt getting ready for runoff elections they'd been forced into by challengers.
Elections always get my gears turning. Watching the results roll in, here are some things I pondered.
- Berke's "mandate." At first blush, when a candidate claims 64 percent of the vote, it's easy to believe he's got a mandate to enact the policies of his choosing. However, when only one in five registered voters bothered to show up, are we supposed to take that to mean the other four of five are OK with how things are going, or that they simply weren't excited enough by the other options to take five minutes out of their day to vote? If I'm Berke, I convince myself (and as many people as I can) that it's the former and push the agenda of my choice.
- Can we please combine Election Days? Once again, most Chattanoogans slept through municipal elections. On the bright side, voter turnout was better this year than it was in 2013 (19.7 percent to 16.4 percent, respectively). But let's be honest, the fact that more than 80 percent of registered voters sat out city elections is pathetic. In 1997, 32.6 percent of voters cast ballots. We've been in a steep decline ever since.
I'm becoming a bigger fan than ever of combining city elections with presidential elections. In addition to saving money, this would capture more votes and help alleviate the voter fatigue that plagues city elections as we have them set up now.
The first step for this to happen, per the city charter, is for a completed petition to reach the City Council, including signatures "equal in number to twenty-five per centum of the votes cast for all the candidates for mayor at the last preceding general municipal election." I'll do the math for you. That's 4,718 signatures based off Tuesday's vote.
- Does Anderson owe Manny Rico a thank-you note? Anderson won his District 7 City Council seat four years ago by toppling Rico. There is little love between the two, but Anderson might owe Rico a thank-you note. Anderson grabbed 810 votes on Tuesday. Not bad, but there were also 890 votes against him (excluding write-ins). Rico, trying to reclaim his old spot, siphoned 260 votes away from Erskine Oglesby, Anderson's leading contender this time, paving the way for an Anderson versus Oglesby runoff. No Rico, and there may have been no runoff - or Councilman Anderson anymore.
- Plenty of votes up for grabs in District 9 runoff. Though Hakeem solidly outpaced District 9's second-place finisher, Demetrus Coonrod, on Tuesday, it wasn't enough to sidestep an April 11 runoff. Yet while Hakeem bested Coonrod by 354 votes, both now desperately need to earn John Kerns' and Pat Benson Jr.'s old supporters: more than 750 votes combined. That's more than enough to swing this race.
OK, so it turns out I have more thoughts than word count. We'll cover more next week. Namely, will we ever see a Republican Chattanooga mayor again?