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Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press Mike Carter talks with reporters outside the Hamilton County Commission room on Monday morning after commissioners deadlocked on making a choice between Carter and Commissioner Jim Coppinger to replace County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who will resign Jan. 11.

A former Chattanooga mayor and the city's current mayor are working behind the scenes to influence the vote on who succeeds Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey.

Former city Mayor Jon Kinsey is working for County Commissioner Jim Coppinger, while current Mayor Ron Littlefield is pushing for Mike Carter, now special assistant to Ramsey. Littlefield earlier had said he wasn't working on behalf of any candidate.

The County Commission deadlocked 4-4 Monday between Coppinger, a former fire chief for Chattanooga, and Carter, a former Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge.

Ramsey is leaving the mayor's office in January to become part of Tennessee Gov.-elect Bill Haslam's staff.

Kinsey appointed Coppinger as Chattanooga fire chief in 1997.

"I do have a lot of knowledge of Jim Coppinger's abilities," Kinsey said. "I have shared that with commissioners on different occasions."

County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern, who is one of Kinsey's business partners in the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, also supports Coppinger.

Littlefield initially tried to distance himself from his support of Carter, and Carter said he didn't believe Littlefield supported him. But on Wednesday Commissioner Joe Graham, who voted for Coppinger, said Littlefield had contacted him about the mayor's position.

Littlefield acknowledged Wednesday that he spoke to Graham about Carter. He said he has contacted several people, telling them about Carter.

"I think a lot of him," Littlefield said.

But he denied asking Graham to vote for Carter.

"I said, 'Joe, you are your own person, I'm not asking you to commit in any way,'" Littlefield said, adding that he is not "lobbying" for a candidate.

"I understood that the mayor was not going to make a statement on behalf of either person," Carter said Wednesday, "but if he has expressed confidence in my ability to lead as county mayor, then I am gratified by that expression of confidence and appreciate it."

Coppinger supported Ann Coulter when she ran against Littlefield in 2005. Littlefield denied that had anything to do with him now calling on behalf of Carter.

There's also talk in political circles that Littlefield offered Commissioner Greg Beck the City Court clerk's job in exchange for supporting Carter. Beck and Littlefield denied those reports on Wednesday.

"That's the most absurd thing that I've ever heard in my life," Beck said.

Beck works as a court officer with City Judge Sherry Paty and said he's happy with the job.

"There's been no discussion about the City Court Clerk position with Greg Beck," Littlefield said. "There's no substance to that."

Staff writer Cliff Hightower contributed to this story.

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