After a dramatic final week of campaigning dominated by a pair of controversies involving her opponent, interim Councilwoman Marvene Noel has won the election to represent District 8 on the Chattanooga City Council, fending off activist Marie Mott in a runoff on Thursday.
With 731 of the 8,295 eligible voters in District 8 participating on Thursday, turnout was low. Noel received 400 votes and Mott 330. There was one write-in.
The council appointed Noel to the seat in March after its previous occupant, former Councilman Anthony Byrd, resigned to become Chattanooga's new City Court clerk.
Noel is past president of the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association and serves on Parkridge Health System's board of trustees. Mott was easily the top vote-getter during an Aug. 4 contest for the seat, but the election went to runoff because she did not secure more than 50% of the vote.
According to certified results, Mott received 46.7% of the ballots during the August race compared to Noel's 28.7%. A third candidate, Malarie B. Marsh, received 24.6% of the vote and did not proceed to the runoff. She ultimately endorsed Mott during a news conference in mid-August.
Noel, meanwhile, received public support from Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.
"Our communities need someone who's going to do more than take her three minutes at City Council," Kelly said in August, referring to the comment period during council meetings. "We need a leader who will take three hours or three days or three weeks or however long it takes to get a street fixed, address a zoning problem or get funding for our neighborhoods.
"We need someone who is going to bring people along with her, not divide them against one another. We need a leader who will roll up her sleeves, not just someone who criticizes from the sidelines," he said. "Fortunately for District 8, they have a leader who has demonstrated she is already ready for this job."
Polls closed at 7 p.m. Thursday, and at around 5 p.m. Hamilton County Election Administrator Scott Allen told the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone that turnout had so far been lower than anticipated. With a couple of hours left, Allen said, officials had tallied a total of about 300 election day votes. There are a total of 8,295 registered voters in District 8.
Polling places typically see their highest volumes early in the morning and in the evening after work, Allen said.
Marva Vance, 74, has lived in Chattanooga her entire life and voted for Mott on Thursday at the Carver Recreation Center in Bushtown. Vance said Mott is intelligent, would be an advocate for the people and wouldn't be easily swayed.
"I think that we need somebody young on there," she said. "Everybody that sits on that seat is old. It's time for them to go and put someone young in there, and I also think it's awful that they're trying to dig up all this dirt against her."
Mott was embroiled in a pair of public controversies in the final days of the campaign.
She fended off criticism on Twitter last week after an anonymous account posted a 35-second clip in which she stated Jews were among those who owned slaves in the United States and fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The clip was pulled from a longer 30-minute video originally posted in 2020.
"Yes, they owned slaves in the South," she said in the video. "Yes, they joined the Confederacy and took up arms against this nation with traitors to uphold the institution of slavery. ... When are we going to deal with it?"
Mott defended her remarks in the replies, which drew renewed criticism. In a letter with 32 signatures, members of Chattanooga's Jewish community condemned those comments, stating that Mott had exaggerated historical facts and presented disinformation about the Civil War and slavery.
On Wednesday, Chattanooga police released body camera footage of a Sept. 11 traffic stop of Mott in the Avondale area. Police say they pulled Mott over because her passenger side headlight was out. Mott accused the officers of harassment and repeatedly swore at them. She provided her driver's license but declined to hand over her registration or proof of insurance.
Police cited Mott for a light law violation, financial responsibility and improper display of her tags, according to an incident report.