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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Marty Haynes gestures after the crowd sang him "Happy Birthday to You" during an election night party at FreightWaves on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Haynes is the incumbent Hamilton County Assessor. His challenger, Hamilton County Commission Chairman Randy Fairbanks, conceded to Haynes.

Joe Biden stole the headlines of Super Tuesday, redirecting the Democratic primary race and making Mike Bloomberg the biggest money-wasting politician in history.

But what about the local takeaway from Tuesday's election results?

Hamilton County Commissioner Randy Fairbanks took a shot at trying to unseat Marty Haynes as assessor of property. You might imagine that about every four years, the assessor just might be the most hated person in the county, as that office sets property values after reappraisals, which often means bumps in property taxes owed. The job also comes with a four-year term, a six-figure salary and county benefits, which might offset that hate mail just a bit.

And when you think "public service," "serving" as property assessor is not among the first couple of hundred posts most of us think about.

Tuesday's election went rather convincingly to Haynes, who won by more than 3,000 votes out of the 24,500-or-so ballots cast.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Marty Haynes reacts as the crowd sings "Happy Birthday to You" during an election night party at FreightWaves on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Haynes is the incumbent Hamilton County Assessor. His challenger, Hamilton County Commission Chairman Randy Fairbanks, conceded to Haynes.

Yes, an incumbent has an innate edge. Job experience and all.

Yes, Haynes' name is well-known, but so too is Fairbanks'. Both served together on the county commission together for a couple of years. They were friends. Until they weren't.

Yet it was a bit surprising to see Fairbanks and his campaign pull the race — for the assessor of property post remember — that deep into the mud.

The first hit alleged that Haynes had lowered the property value on a golf course owned by a friend and donor. The unproved claim was that Haynes had improperly reduced the property value of a golf course to save the owner, who had donated to Haynes' 2016 campaign and allowed Haynes to host campaign events at the course, money on his taxes.

That was alleged dirt; the second hit was just plain-old dirty.

Fairbanks sent out campaign mailers asking potential voters if our county should have a property assessor who does not own property in the county.

Of course, that made me wonder if we elected a county dog catcher, must he or she own a dog?

It turns out that Haynes was dealing with an ailing parent, a reality that many of us (and plenty of voters) have experienced and would not wish on our worst enemy, be them personal or political. Those emotional speed bumps can be among the most wearying and worrying for adult children.

Fairbanks, in his efforts to discredit his opponent, picked the wrong issue.

"We've seen a few really nasty local elections recently, and I think this shows that people really do want to vote for someone based on their accomplishments," Haynes told our paper's Sarah Grace Taylor Tuesday night. "And I'm glad to win for the employees of my office who feel like they've been under attack as well."

While our national politics have become downright nasty, it doesn't have to be that way locally.

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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Randy Fairbanks, center, and wife Marty, left, look at early voting results on his daughter Lauren Fairbanks Preston, right, at Marcos Pizza on Hixson Pike on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Randy Fairbanks conceded the election to Marty Haynes.

But with recent examples in which good people — and I know Randy and believe him to be a good guy — take the low road and come out on the losing end, then maybe there's a silver lining.

Sure, Marty's happy with the outcome, but if we can keep local races above board, then we'll all be better off.

Fairbanks' slogan on his campaign signs was "Trust the CPA," referring to his accounting background. It was a sound pitch, and one that would have better suited his chances than the mud-slinging.

But the "Trust the CPA" slogan — an old-school approach of running on your merits rather than alleged shortcomings of an opponent — became background noise with the accusations that dominated the campaign.

Perhaps Randy — and hopefully all those looking to run for office here — will be able to use the lessons learned in the future.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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