Robin Smith, a longtime Republican activist and former chairman of the county and state Republican Party, said Wednesday she will seek the nomination for the state House District 26 seat.
And she's doing it with the blessing of two, maybe three possible rivals.
The seat is opening up with the surprise announcement that incumbent Gerald McCormick, a former House majority leader who was bucking for the speaker's post, will resign Oct. 1 and take a job in Nashville.
But whoever wanted to run would have to scramble – early voting for the Aug. 2 primary starts July 13.
Smith, a project management consultant whose business includes some political clients, said she got the all-clear Wednesday from Tennessee Ethics and Campaign Finance Bureau head Drew Rawlings that seeking office wouldn't be a conflict of interest.
She said she'll pick up qualifying papers first thing this morning and said she is "very humbled to be encouraged by so many people" to run.
"I've always had a heart for public service, whether I have a title or not," said the Hixson resident, who was Hamilton County GOP chairwoman from 1998 to 2002 and ran the state party from 2007-09. "It's just a natural extension of what I'm doing."
She also ran unsuccessfully for the nomination in the 3rd Congressional District in 2009.
Two other potential candidates, meanwhile, said they would get behind Smith.
CPA and former party chairman Tony Sanders and Hamilton County Comissioner Greg Martin both agreed to defer to Smith. All three said they wanted to avoid a contested primary and agree the person with the fewest complications would be the candidate.
"There's no doubt in my mind she will hit the ground [as] the most qualified newly elected person there is," Sanders said Wednesday. His complication, he said, was that he would have to give up his hard-earned seat on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency board.
Martin, a Realtor, agreed with Sanders.
"I think that Robin Smith perhaps will be the most qualified freshman state representative that the state Legislature has ever had," Martin said.
"She'll know her way around the halls of the Capitol on day one and be effective on day 1, which is great for District 26. I support her 100 percent."
He said he and Smith grew up in the same neighborhood and graduated high school together. Her mother has been a mainstay of his campaigns for school board and county commission.
Martin also said he loves his work on the Hamilton County Commission. He was elected in 2016 when incumbent Marty Haynes was elected property assessor, and he is running for his first full term.
Smith said she spoke Wednesday to the other potential candidate, Ron Harr. The former Chattanooga Chamber president and longtime vice president at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee picked up papers Tuesday.
Smith said they had a friendly conversation and that Harr told her he hadn't known she was interested in the seat.
Harr is out of town and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Smith said she will start immediately to assemble a campaign team and start knocking on doors and asking for votes.
"I'm going to spend a lot of time listening to the needs of the district," she said. "Tennessee is doing great; our state is in fantastic economic health, but I want to make sure Tennesseans are as well."
The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will face Democrat David Jones in the Nov. 6 general election.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.