Opinion: Wamps win squeaker, blowout in Hamilton County mayor, district attorney races

The third time may be the charm for Weston Wamp.

After losing two primary races in 2012 and 2014 for the U.S. House seat once occupied by his father, he sought the job of Hamilton County mayor being vacated by Jim Coppinger. On Tuesday, Wamp won by 321 votes out of 40,764 cast in the three-way contest for the Republican nomination in August's general election for mayor.

The 35-year-old primary winner will face 26-year-old Matt Adams, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Wamp, an entrepreneur, was the first to enter the mayor's race last October. The entry a few weeks later of former home remodeling company owner Matt Hullander - the son of longtime Hamilton County commissioner and current county trustee Bill Hullander - set up the contest as a clash of two political scions.

(READ MORE: Wamp edges out Smedley to win Republican nomination for Hamilton County mayor)

But several weeks later, Hamilton County Commission Chair Sabrena Smedley joined the fray and hoped to play the role now-Gov. Bill Lee did in 2018 of coming between U.S. Rep. Diane Black and Randy Boyd, the former state commissioner of economic and community development, who were the assumed front-runners in the gubernatorial race.

It nearly happened.

Wamp won by about 1% of the vote, edging Smedley. Hullander was third.

The race turned ugly the last few weeks when friends of and contributors to Wamp twice sent out scurrilous mailers under the name Chattanoogans for Responsible Government about the other two candidates. Wamp said he personally was not involved but did not ask his friends to cease and desist and, instead, said the mailers "are raising important questions in advance of an important election."

He and one of those responsible for the mailers had been aghast when something similar was done to Wamp in the 2014 House primary and at the time decried such false and negative attacks.

(READ MORE: Coty Wamp ousts Neal Pinkston for GOP nomination for Hamilton County district attorney)

Wamp also might have gotten a final jolt when this newspaper published a poll by Spry Strategies on the race Sunday showing him with a nearly 9% lead. Some voters for Smedley and Hullander, thinking the race was over, may have stayed home.

But the primary winner nevertheless was ubiquitous, airing television commercials showing his wife and four young children, using an online news site to promote his campaign essays (plans) and employing social media to perfection.

Wamp's overarching theme was education, rightly saying it is ultimately involved in almost every aspect of county government. He, like the other two candidates, pushed the need for more vocational education, but he also suggested the need for a world-class high school downtown and toward the end of the campaign repeated a mantra to "bring back Kirkman" (a former downtown vocational high school).

If he wins his race in August - and he'll be heavily favored - he'll preside over a county government with a new sheriff, new district attorney general and at least seven new commission members.

(READ MORE: Four Hamilton County Commission races decided in primary election)

In the race for district attorney general, Wamp's sister, 33-year-old Coty Wamp, was the easy victor over one-term incumbent Neal Pinkston, who metaphorically shot himself in the foot by being both cagey and defiant in attempting to keep his wife and brother-in-law on his payroll.

The only contested judiciary races were won by Republicans Mike Dimitru (Hamilton County Circuit Court, Division II) and Boyd Patterson (Hamilton County Criminal Court, Division III), neither of whom have Democratic opponents in August, and incumbent Sherry Paty in the nonpartisan race for city judge.

In county commission races, four Republican primary winners without Democratic opposition in August will take seats on the now-11-member panel when it is seated in late summer.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County voters choose Kuehn for school board; other races headed to August general election)

Two of those four, Gene-o Shipley in District 1 and Mike Chauncey in District 8, then will be members of two governmental panels - Shipley also a Soddy-Daisy city commissioner and Chauncey also an East Ridge city councilman and vice mayor. Shipley, who defeated two-term Commissioner Randy Fairbanks by 178 votes, told the Times Free Press editorial board he would not be resigning his other post, and Chauncey, who knocked off Hamilton County Board of Education Chairman Tucker McClendon by 148 votes, told us he would wait and see. We think government runs best when jobs on two such boards are held by different people.

In District 10, new-to-politics Jeff Eversole defeated Dean Moorhouse, also making his first run for office but long active in the community, by 126 votes for one of the two new seats. The fourth member with no opposition in August, Lee Helton, also had no opposition in the primary.

Two former members of the commission also won bids to return. In District 5, Democrat Greg Beck, who served for 13 years before being defeated in 2018, will take back his seat after easily defeating three opponents (and has no GOP opposition in August). In District 11, Joe Graham, who served two terms before losing in 2018, won the Republican primary for the other new seat. He'll face Democrat Montrell Besley, who knocked off two opponents for the opportunity.

In contested school board primaries, Republicans Jon Baker (District 6), Gary Kuehn (District 9) and Faye Robinson (District 10), and Democrat Katie Perkins (District 8), won their way to opponents in the August general election.

(READ MORE: These are the next judges in Hamilton County)