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With the nine-member panel now expanding to 11, it's a foregone conclusion the Hamilton County Commission dais will have new faces in September.

Even in the existing seats, Commissioner Tim Boyd, R-East Brainerd, is stepping down after 12 years on the board, and Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley, R-Ooltewah, will depart after an unsuccessful bid to replace outgoing Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, who is leaving after about 11 years in that role.

But even with all those opportunities for newcomers to run, only three of the 11 commission seats appearing on the ballot this Thursday are contested. At least six will result in a new commissioner, although a couple of candidates have served in the office in the past.

Republican Joe Graham and Democrat Montrell Besley are competing to represent the newly created District 11, which includes Alton Park, Lookout Valley and St. Elmo. Graham, a former Hamilton County commissioner, said safety has been on the forefront of voters' minds, especially after several high-profile school shootings across the country.

"We need to make sure that we have a (school resource officer) in every school," he said by phone.

Hamilton County commissioners recently allocated $1 million to enhance the number of school security officers deployed across the system, building on a $950,000 investment by the school board. The funding will ensure there's a resource officer or security officer at every school — employed by the district — but Graham wants to specifically see an expansion in the number of school resource officers, who are employed by the Sheriff's Office.

"SSOs are a good program, and I'm very thankful that the schools brought that forward," he said. "But on the same token we need to have an SRO available because SSOs are very limited by state law of what they can and can't do."

Besley, the owner of Chattanooga Rolling Video Games, also cited public safety as a key issue. Gun violence has been a persistent problem in places like Alton Park and East Lake, he said.

"We're always plagued with crime, but it's often overlooked because of the community that it is," Besley said. "We just have to do a better job of rallying together as a community and really pushing not just our elected officials but our law enforcement."

Many races only have one candidate on the ballot. Five Republican candidates for Hamilton County Commission, including incumbent Chip Baker of Signal Mountain, don't have an opponent this August, meaning the party has a good chance to retain its majority even with the addition of two seats.

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The state and federal primary and state and county general election is set for Thursday. Local polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and voters who have not yet cast their ballots during the early voting window should plan to head to their local precinct to vote on Election Day.

On the ballots this year are several key roles and positions, both at the state and county level:

Contested primary elections

Governor:

— Carnita Faye Atwater, Democrat.

—Jason Brantley Martin, Democrat.

—JB Smiley Jr., Democrat.

United States House of Representative for District 3:

— Sandy Casey, Republican.

— Chuck Fleischmann, Republican.

State House of Representatives, District 26:

— Allison Gorman, Democrat.

— Tim Roberts, Democrat.

Contested general elections

County Mayor:

— Weston Wamp, Republican.

— Matt Adams, Democrat.

District Attorney for 11th Judicial District:

— Coty Wamp, Republican.

— John Allen Brooks, Democrat.

County Commission, District 6:

— Ruth Jeno, Republican.

— David Sharpe, Democrat.

County Commission, District 9:

— Steve Highlander, Republican.

— Steve A. Caudle, Democrat.

County Commission, District 11:

— Joseph Graham, Republican.

— Montrell Besley, Democrat.

General Sessions Judge, Division 3:

— Larry Ables

— Gerald Webb Jr.

County Clerk:

— W.F. Bill Knowles, Republican.

— R. Chester Heathington Jr., independent.

— Nivek Rucker, independent.

County School Board, District 3:

— Joe Smith, Republican.

— Jenn Piroth, Democrat.

County School Board, District 5:

— Charles Paty, Republican.

— Karitsa Mosley Jones, Democrat.

County School Board, District 6:

— Jon Baker, Republican.

— Ben Connor, Democrat.

County School Board, District 8:

— Larry Grohn, Republican.

—Katie Perkins, Democrat.

County School Board, District 10:

— Faye Robinson, Republican.

— Jeff P. Crim, Democrat.

— Christine A. Essex, independent.

County School Board, District 11:

— Virginia Anne Manson, Republican.

— Jill Black, Democrat.

— Steve McKinney, independent.

For a complete list of polling locations, visit bit.ly/chatt-polls. To view a sample ballot, including uncontested races, party executive committees and city-level matters, visit bit.ly/chatt-sampleballot.

 

An additional Republican, Greg Martin, was appointed to serve as the interim state representative for House District 26 in April and is also on the ballot for that seat in November.

Martin is running unopposed for the District 3 seat on the County Commission, and he told the Times Free Press in a phone call Friday that he intends to serve in the role from September through after the general election for the House seat in November, in which he will face off against the winner of Thursday's Democratic primary between Allison Gorman and Tim Roberts.

If he wins election to the General Assembly, Martin would then resign from the Hamilton County Commission, at which point commissioners would appoint someone to that seat, he said.

In May, the Hamilton County Commission appointed Ken Smith, who also sits on the Chattanooga City Council, to serve the remainder of Martin's term. Smith would leave once new commissioners are sworn in this September but hopes to return to the County Commission if Martin opts to resign in November.

Democrats meanwhile have two candidates running unopposed on Aug. 4: Incumbent Warren Mackey and former Commissioner Greg Beck, who will be returning after narrowly losing his primary in 2018 to outgoing Commissioner Katherlyn Geter, D-Ridgeside.

Two more incumbents — Commissioner David Sharpe, D-Red Bank, and Republican Steve Highlander, R-Ooltewah — face challengers this term. Republican Ruth Jeno, a member of the Red Bank City Commission, is challenging Sharpe for his District 6 seat and Democrat Steve Caudle, the senior pastor of Greater Second Missionary Baptist Church, will square off against Highlander in District 9.

Sharpe told the Times Free Press the county is at a crossroads, adding decisions made during the next three years will shape the community for decades.

"The county needs to make smart investments NOW to lay the groundwork for the future," he said by text. "We have to replace dilapidated and expensive to maintain school buildings; we need to expand our maxed-out, over-stressed water and sewer infrastructure.

"These things are not flashy or eye-catching, but they'll determine whether or not we can grow and thrive, or if we kick the can down the road for another generation to deal with."

Jeno didn't respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Commissioner Randy Fairbanks, R-Soddy Daisy, lost his primary in May to longtime Soddy-Daisy City Commissioner Gene-o Shipley, who is one of the Republicans now running unopposed in the general election.

Although county residents are poised to see turnover in elected offices, Mayor Jim Coppinger told the Times Free Press on Friday he's not alarmed because the employees who provide the government services on a day-to-day basis will remain.

"I've told people all along that we change presidents in the middle of wars," he said by phone. "I'm really confident that we can change sheriffs and mayors and so forth. County government is in a really strong position."

Contact David Floyd at dfloyd@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @flavid_doyd.

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