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Staff file photo / District 3 Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Martin looks on during a County Commission meeting in the County Commission assembly room at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Martin was appointed Wednesday by his fellow commissioners to fill the state House District 26 seat left vacant by the resignation of Robin Smith.

Hixson Republican Greg Martin has relinquished his seat on the Hamilton County Commission to fill the Tennessee House seat left vacant by the resignation of Robin Smith.

Five commissioners voted Wednesday to appoint Martin to the House District 26 seat, with Commissioner Tim Boyd abstaining from voting. Martin also legally had to abstain from voting on his own appointment, while Commissioners Steve Highlander, R-Ooltewah, and David Sharpe, D-Red Bank, were not present at the meeting.

"There are many important items being discussed in Nashville, and I believe the people of House District 26 should have a voice in those discussions," Martin said during the meeting. "My experience as a member of both the Hamilton County school board, as well as the Hamilton County Commission, make me uniquely ready to serve the voters of District 26 on discussions such as the education funding and state budgets, and I am appreciative of the county commission for selecting me to fulfill this duty."

(READ MORE: Former Tennessee Rep. Robin Smith pleads guilty to fraud)

Upon accepting the appointment, Martin's resignation from the commission was effective immediately.

It was unclear when Martin would be sworn in to replace Smith, R-Hixson, who resigned earlier this month and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a single charge of honest services wire fraud.

Prior to the confirmation vote, Boyd made a motion to leave the seat vacant until the Nov. 8 general election, arguing that making an appointment would give the appointee an unfair advantage in the election.

"Whomever this commission may appoint would go to Nashville, have really no effect on how bills are voted on since there's a supermajority of Republicans on the House floor and Senate floor," Boyd said. "Coming in at the end of a session like this, there's no way they could get caught up on committees. But there is one thing they will be able to do if appointed: They'll be able to put out their name to every lobbyist in Tennessee, and if they have intentions of running in the general election, those lobbyists will be filling those coffers with lots of money."

Boyd added there seemed to be no urgency in Nashville to fill the seat.

Commissioner Randy Fairbanks, R-Soddy-Daisy, was the only other commissioner to vote for the motion, noting the state legislative session is nearly over to begin with.

"A little bit of my concern is putting someone new on the [state] payroll when the session is out," Fairbanks said. "I would have more concern with filling the position if we were in January than we are here starting into April."

(READ MORE: Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Martin to run for House seat left vacant by Robin Smith)

Commissioner Chip Baker, R-Signal Mountain, also noted he was told there was not much urgency to fill the seat in Nashville, although he still offered support for Martin.

"As much as I hate that this position opened when it did, I think Commissioner Martin is very worthy of the position, and I'd like to see us go ahead and move to put him in place if that would be the will of the commission," Baker said. "I think he works hard, he represents the people of Hixson and District 26 very well. I guess there may be a slight advantage but not really, because he's been so involved in Hixson for so long that I think the advantage is already there."

Martin plans to run for the seat in the Aug. 4 primary election and has raised $35,000 in campaign contributions. He was one of three candidates seeking the appointment to the District 26 seat. The other two were Shannon Stephenson of Harrison and David Swinford of Rivermont.

(READ MORE: Replacement for former Tennessee Rep. Robin Smith to be appointed by end of month)

Now that Martin has left his District 3 seat on the commission, work must begin to fill that vacancy.

Commission Chair Sabrena Smedley, R-Ooltewah, said that is "incumbent upon us" to look for an appointee but the commission would first have to advertise the opening to solicit candidates.

Contact Logan Hullinger at lhullinger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.

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