some text

The Catoosa County Republican Party is not pleased after a newly elected commissioner endorsed a Democrat for the commission chair seat in November's general election.

In the August runoff, commission newcomer Vanita Hullander upset incumbent Jim Cutler for the District 3 commission seat.

"For my supporters, my team, I couldn't have asked for a better group of people," Hullander said after her victory. "I said, 'God's got this' the whole time. It's been a long and exhausting campaign, and I'm appreciative for the people of District 3 that trusted me to serve them in another capacity."

Hullander has held dozens of positions on various boards in the Catoosa County community and served as the county coroner for six terms.

Cutler lost despite prominent endorsements including those of Sheriff Gary Sisk, Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese and state Sen. Jeff Mullis.

Hullander got 1,028 votes, while Cutler received 949.

Following the election, Hullander posted on the Facebook campaign page of Ernie Pursley, who is running against Steven Henry, the current chairman of the Catoosa County Commission.

"I have known Ernie Pursley for 30 years. He is a good man, community oriented and wants to do what is right for this county," Hullander wrote. "He will serve you well I support him fully."

some text
A screenshot of Vanita Hullander's Facebook post on Ernie Pulsey's campaign page.

The 71-year-old Pursley is a Ringgold native and is running on the Democratic ticket after formerly serving as chairman for the Catoosa County Democratic Party.

Henry has been chair of the Catoosa County Commission since he was elected in 2016.

In a statement posted after Hullander endorsed Pursley, Catoosa County Republican Party Chair Joan Edwards said the purpose of the local GOP "is to support local Republican candidates and work with the community to spread our message and conservative values of the Republican Party."

"The Catoosa County Republican Party in no way supports this decision and we fully support the re-election of Chairman Steven Henry," Edwards said. "Our leadership and members are unified in the single goal of electing Republicans. We are committed to keeping Democrat policies, such as defunding the police and restricting Second Amendment rights, out of our community."

Before a person can qualify to run as a Republican, candidates must sign an oath that includes "the promise to abide by the rules of the Republican Party and to stand for Republican values," Edwards said. Hullander signed such an oath, which is a reason why her endorsement is ruffling so many feathers.

Hullander did not respond to multiple calls this week seeking comment.

According to his campaign, Pursley is running on a platform for common sense use of public funds, open government, an improved road system in Catoosa County, protecting the agriculture sector and supporting the local school system. 

Pursley could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment. 

Contact Patrick Filbin at or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.