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Chattanooga City Councilman Larry Grohn is backed by family and friends on the steps of City Hall Tuesday afternoon as he announces his candidacy for mayor.
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A screenshot of a social media posting by Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson.
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A screenshot of a social media posting by Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson.
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Columnist David Martin

No, this is not an endorsement. I don't get to do that on this page, anyway.

Rather, it's a word of advice to local Democrats tempted to take Larry Grohn's campaign kickoff lightly. In short: Don't do it. You should think of him as a legitimate contender to be Chattanooga's next mayor.

Tuesday evening, with the hot August sun blaring into his eyes — and the faces of a handful of sign-toting supporters behind him — Chattanooga City Councilman Larry Grohn announced from the steps of City Hall that he intends to unseat Mayor Andy Berke next March. His speech was brief and straightforward, and nothing he said caught anyone off guard. Flashy it was not. He did, however, unveil a relatively catchy tagline: "Believe in Better."

Within a few short hours of Grohn's announcement, one of his council peers (I'll let you guess which one) took to social media to mock him, the sparse attendance of the event and the racial composition of his backers. Apparently, Grohn's campaign kickoff was a bit too Caucasian.

In no time, Grohn was compared to Donald Trump in the comment section of that Facebook post, where it was then naturally suggested that he'd be a bad candidate for people of color. His fellow councilman even went so far as to call him "a racist, white, Tea Party liar."

And just like that, a little group of local Democrats made the upcoming mayoral race about, well, race, and dismissed Grohn's candidacy entirely because there weren't any nonwhite folks holding signs at his rally. I swear I got dumber in the two minutes it took me to read through that post and all its comments.

I'm assuming other area Democrats don't think like that particular Facebook crew. Yet for those who might, here's why you shouldn't treat Grohn the same way his colleague did:

First, if someone did want to drag race into the city elections, let's not pretend for a second that plenty of minority residents wouldn't have their ears open to a new pitch. How many reports have come out over the past few years detailing inequity along racial lines in local schools, job accessibility and economic mobility? Let's also not forget about violent crime. Anyone concerned about these issues, who "Believes in Better," will probably be willing to hear out fresh perspectives.

Second, Larry hustles hard, and he will deliver, voter-by-voter, his vision for Chattanooga. He'll have to, really. There is no way Grohn will be able to match Berke's campaign war chest. Not even close. The continued exposure Berke can purchase in television and radio ads, Grohn will have to make up for in door-knocking.

But doorbells he loves to ring. I should know. I managed a campaign against him four years ago. I have never known a politician who relishes the thought of meeting voters face-to-face to sell ideas more than Larry Grohn.

Just like his campaign announcement on Tuesday, Larry is not flashy. He speaks his mind and gets to the point. One of the many lessons of 2016 is that people like to feel they're getting straight-talk, and my hunch is that when he meets with prospective voters on their front porches to talk about city government, many will appreciate that about him.

Of course, Chattanooga city elections are a half year away, and there will be numerous twists and turns in the various contests. One thing to remember over the next few months, though, is that just because some candidates look to have long odds at winning, they shouldn't be discounted nor disrespected.

Especially Larry.

Contact David Allen Martin at davidallenmartin423@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DMart423.

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