Weston Wamp's third try at elected office proved to be the charm Thursday night.
After threading the needle between two other Republicans in the May primary with last-minute appeals to Democrats, he was elected Hamilton County's next mayor with 58.5% of the vote over freelance paralegal Matt Adams, a 26-year-old Democrat.
Wamp, 35, the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, had previously made failed bids at the Republican nomination for his father's former seat in 2012 and 2014.
The victory was hardly surprising in a county dominated by Republicans, nor was that of his sister, Coty Wamp, in her bid to become the county's district attorney. After easily knocking off one-term district attorney Neal Pinkston in the May primary, she defeated attorney and one-term county commissioner John Allen Brooks with 59% of the vote.
Since many of the county's constitutional offices were unopposed and many of the races had been decided in the primary, the night held little suspense.
Only five races of the dozens of races on the ballot were close, four in the county general election and one in the special election to fill an unexpired term on the Chattanooga City Council.
In Hamilton County Commission District 11, one of the two new districts created by the commission last fall in redistricting that followed the 2020 census, the intrigue lived up to the expectations we foresaw after its formation.
The district, we noted, has more traditional Democratic voters — if they can be motivated to go to the polls. But in May's primary, the Republican candidates for the county commission and Hamilton County Board of Education got far more votes than the Democrats, even though Democrats had a contested commission primary.
On Thursday, though, Democrats rallied, securing the district's school board seat for Jill Black in a three-way race with 50.01% of the vote but losing the commission seat to Republican Joe Graham by 30 votes.
Graham will be one of two former commissioners returning to the body after losing races in 2018. He formerly represented District 6, the lines of which were moved away from his home Lookout Valley precincts during redistricting. The other returnee is Greg Beck, who served three-plus terms before being defeated in 2018. He easily won his contested primary in May and had no opposition on Thursday.
The presence of Graham and Beck will increase the experience level on the commission, which will have four first-time members in Gene-o Shipley (District 1), Lee Helton (District 7), Mike Chauncey (District 8) and Jeffrey Eversole (District 10) for the first time since 2010.
The commission will be without a woman for the first time in eight years as District 6 challenger Ruth Jeno was defeated by incumbent David Sharpe in Thursday's election. The current panel's two women, Chair Sabrena Smedley of District 7 and Katheryn Geter of District 5, chose not to run for re-election.
In District 3, Greg Martin was re-elected to the commission seat he held until resigning this spring upon his appointment to the Tennessee House of Representatives. He'll be sworn in with the rest of his colleagues on Sept. 1 but has said he is likely to resign if he is elected to a full term in the state House in November. Chattanooga City Councilman Ken Smith is temporarily filling the seat until the new commission is sworn in but could be temporarily reappointed again if Martin resigns. An election to fill the remaining two years of Martin's seat then would be held in 2024.
Perhaps the most surprising result of the night was the upset of General Sessions Court Judge Gerald Webb Jr. by Larry Ables in a nonpartisan race. Webb, the court's first and only Black judge, was appointed to the bench in 2019 and won a special election to fill the remaining two years of Judge Clarence Shattuck's term in 2020.
Ables, a prosecutor and former chief magistrate, was a late qualifier in the race, but his campaign filled county mailboxes with mailers touting his candidacy, and even put up television ads, in the last few weeks before the election. He won with 54.8% of the vote.
The other close vote in the county general election was in the contest for school board representative in District 8, which covers East Ridge and parts of East Brainerd. Larry Grohn, a former Chattanooga city councilman whose Republican candidacy was filled with intrigue over lost campaign funds from a previous race and charges of stealing campaign signs, emerged the winner over Democrat Katie Perkins with 53.3% of the vote.
In the District 8 Chattanooga City Council special election, activist Marie Mott was the leading vote-getting among three women seeking to fill the seat of Anthony Byrd, who resigned earlier this year after being appointed City Court clerk. Mott picked up 46.3% of the vote, shy of a majority. Since she did not get a majority, she and second-place finisher Marvene Noel — the temporary replacement on the council — will have a runoff election at a date to be determined.
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