No state legislative candidate should go uncontested in both primary and general election races, but that has been the case too often in Hamilton County in recent history. Fortunately, it's not so this year.
Two races — the August ballot will show three — will be contested in the primary, and all six will be contested in November. We think that's best for democracy.
In November, in state House District 26, barring any eligibility ruling, it will be Republican Robin Smith vs. Democrat David Jones (Democrat Jean Marie Lawrence has moved out of the district); in District 27, incumbent Republican Patsy Hazlewood vs. Democrat Brent Morris; and in District 29, incumbent Republican Mike Carter vs. Democrat Tammy Magouirk. In state Senate District 11, it will be incumbent Republican Bo Watson vs. Democrat Randy Price.
On Aug. 2 (and beginning today in early voting), primary voters will choose among five Democratic candidates in House District 28 and between two Republicans in House District 30.
The Chattanooga Free Press page recommends:
Clark best of District 28 quintet
With the retirement of state Rep. JoAnne Favors, residents of District 28 have the opportunity to elect a leader from a new generation to the state legislature.
Five Democrats are running for the position, including former longtime Chattanooga City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem and former 3rd District Congress Democratic nominee Melody Shekari. Whoever wins will face Lemon Williams, who is unopposed for the Republican nomination, in November.
Three of the five people vying for the Democratic nomination are aged 34 or under. We believe Democrats would be best served by voting for Dennis Clark, a former legislative policy adviser for former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Cromartie of Cobb County, Ga., and who now runs a consulting business.
As the only candidate with legislative experience, he says he knows how to get a bill passed. He also served three terms on the Commission on Children and Youth under Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Clark, 34, as director of public relations and community initiatives, also was the first administrator at the former Tennessee Temple University, was a recruiter for the Public Education Foundation, and was director of marketing and development at Hope for the Inner City.
He also had a brother slain in gang violence, so he is no stranger to the vicissitudes of the community he would represent.
Clark says whoever represents the district "can't just be a Nashville politician anymore." That legislator has to "work with people at the local level" and "collaborate."
The district is fortunate that each candidate is worthy of consideration.
Hakeem, 69, who is being backed by the outgoing Favors, says the legislature "would be a natural for me" as one who has "a history and track record of working with people of all walks of life." Shekari, 30, an attorney, has worked for felons' rights, assisted with immigrant cases and is on the state board of the American Civil Liberties Union and the local board of the American Red Cross.
Jackie Anderson, 53, a social worker, says her platform includes education, health care, criminal justice reform and affordable housing. Brandon Woodruff, 25, an entrepreneur, says he interned for both Republicans and Democrats while getting his bachelor's and master's degrees at Middle Tennessee State University. and Lipscomb University, respectively. He says he'll take a "very Jesus approach" to issues such as health care, criminal justice reform and educational equity — "show them the bigger picture."
Our pick, for his youth and experience, is Clark.
Mason gets nod in District 30
For decades, the road to the District 30 seat has run through East Ridge and for the last 24 years through the East Ridge City Council.
Jonathan Mason, seeking the open seat being vacated by Hamilton County register of deeds candidate Marc Gravitt, is hoping to change that.
The Unum client specialist lives in East Brainerd, where the largest part of the growth of the district has been. Though he grew up in East Brainerd, he also lived in East Ridge before moving back to the eastern end of the district.
Since the East Brainerd/Apison area has the growth and a greater portion of the district's population, we believe it is appropriate that someone from that area finally represents the district. So we endorse Mason, who is being opposed by East Ridge Councilwoman Esther Helton.
Mason, in previous years, has been on the other side of elections, helping the campaigns of state Rep. Mike Carter, Sheriff Jim Hammond, Judge Lila Statom, Judge Robert Filyaw, Hamilton County Commissioners Tim Boyd and Sabrena Smedley and former Assessor of Property candidate Sterling Jetton.
Now, with the backing of Carter, state Rep. Gerald McCormick, Boyd, Smedley, Chattanooga Councilman Darrin Ledford, Tennessee Right to Life and the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga, he's trying to upend the better financed Helton.
Mason brings to the race not only the sum of what he learned in previous campaigns, and his Unum experience, where he said his job is "digging down to the root and figuring out what is wrong," but also his status with his wife of being a small business owner.
In that, "you see a lot of issues [constituents] have to face," he says.
As a legislator, Mason says, among the biggest things House members will wrestle with are education and health.
It is incumbent for legislators to work together to make "sure [students] have a good education," he says. He says he and other legislators will be watching — after several years of glitches from vendors — to see how statewide TNReady tests are administered. It is perfectly appropriate, he says, for the state to have a service guarantee from a vendor and to hold the vendor accountable when things go wrong.
Mason says he would not vote to expand Medicaid in the state while the Affordable Care Act is being debated but would promote new technologies and ideas and attempt to cut back burdensome regulations in order to decrease health insurance costs to consumers.
He also says the Border Region Act has given East Ridge a spark, and he'd like to see it expanded, if possible, to the entire city.
Helton, a nurse, is campaigning on education, health care and less government. We find at least one of her proposals — putting health back in the hands of doctors and patients and out of the hands of insurance companies — commendable but not very realistic at the moment.
She touts her support from Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean, a former East Ridge city councilman, the Chattanooga Firefighters Association Local 820 and the Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association.
The winner between the two will face Democrat Joda Thongnopnua and independent Michael Holloway in November.
We believe Mason is the right man at the right time for the district.