Khristy Wilkinson to head Hamilton County Democrats amid 'complete rout' of established leaders

Senate candidate Khristy Wilkinson talks to friends Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 Jefferson's.
Senate candidate Khristy Wilkinson talks to friends Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 Jefferson's.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party has elected Khristy Wilkinson to serve as its new chairwoman.

Last year, Wilkinson knocked out Nick Wilkinson - not related - in the Democratic primary for Tennessee's 10th Senate District, but she failed to unseat Republican Todd Gardenhire in the November general election.

photo Khristy Wilkinson listens to a speaker during an interfaith celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at Mercy Junction Justice & Peace Center on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The celebration is the first of five days of events to honor the late Dr. King.

On Saturday, she defeated Mark Siedlecki for the party's top spot during the biennial reorganization at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall. Siedlecki made a failed bid to win the Hamilton County Assessor of Property seat last August, losing to Republican Marty Haynes.

Wilkinson credited the reorganization turnout and her victory to the energy and momentum of newly engaged supporters who still wanted to make a difference after the dust settled from her senate campaign. However, she hadn't really thought about making a bid for the party chair until she got to the reorganization meeting.

"When I got there, people kept asking me if I would run, so I accepted the nomination from the floor when it happened," Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson's victory and those of other new Democratic Party officers have been described as "a complete rout of the party's current establishment in favor of younger, more progressive leadership that more than doubled the regular number of attendees" at the party's reorganization meeting, party member thomas kunesh said in an email.

Jermaine JD Harper has been elected to serve as vice chairman, while Christopher Moreland and Kate M. Sheets will serve as the new treasurer and secretary, respectively.

Wilkinson replaces Terry Lee, who did not seek re-election.

"The success of Wilkinson's insurgency has been attributed to her three pre-reorganization rallies held around the county that brought in close to a hundred new participants that elected themselves to many previously vacant precinct positions," kunesh said.

In all, 200 people participated in the event, the most in a very long time, Wilkinson said.

She held rallies in Hixson, downtown Chattanooga and Ooltewah right after the November election, she said, citing the need to assure Democrats in those areas they are not alone and can make a difference in county government.

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