Very few partisan races dot the August Hamilton County general election ballot, especially when it comes to judges and constitutional officers.
Among constitutional officers, Trustee Bill Hullander, Sheriff candidate Austin Garrett, Circuit Court Clerk Larry Henry, Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean, Juvenile Court Clerk Gary Behler and Register of Deeds Marc Gravitt are all running unopposed. All are Republicans.
The same is true with the judiciary, with Circuit Court Judges J.B. Bennett, Marie Williams and Kyle Hedrick, and candidate Mike Dumitru; Chancellors Pam Fleenor and Jeff Atherton; Criminal Court Judges Barry Steelman and Tom Greenholtz, and candidate Boyd Patterson; General Sessions Judges Christie Sell, Alex McVeagh, Lila Statom and Gary Starnes; and Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw all having no opposition. The same is true for Public Defender Steve Smith. All are Republicans.
In the remaining contested races, the Chattanooga Free Press opinion page recommends:
> District Attorney, Coty Wamp: The general counsel in the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is only 33, but she won 71% of the vote in the Republican primary in overturning one-term incumbent Neal Pinkston, who became mired in a year-long tug-of-war over the employment of his wife and brother-in-law in his office.
Wamp's enthusiasm, push for more prosecutions, desire to reduce gang crime, and sensitivity to crimes against children recommend her in the general election. She has worked on both sides of the courtroom as both a public defender and an assistant district attorney, vows to be visible in the community and promises to be "fair and equitable in the way I treat everybody in this county."
Her Democratic opponent, John Allen Brooks, is a longtime area attorney who served one term on the Hamilton County Commission. A wise and folksy gentleman, he vows to focus on prosecuting violent crimes, makes the same promise of fair and equal treatment as his opponent, and wants to legalize marijuana.
Wamp's youth, energy and new ideas make her the best candidate in this race that carries an eight-year term.
> General Sessions Court Judge, Division 3, Gerald Webb Jr.: The most recent appointee to General Sessions Court (2019), he was elected in 2020 to fill the remainder of retiring Judge Clarence Shattuck's term and now seeks his first full term.
Webb, the first Black appointee to Sessions Court, hasn't been without controversy, as reprimands from the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct for inappropriate social media posts and brief suspensions of his law license for failing to comply with continuing education requirements suggest. But his support from the community, from white and Black, Republican and Democrat, reflect the wide trust people have in him. We recommended his election.
We harbor no disrespect for his opponent, Larry Ables, a longtime local attorney who also has served as the county's chief magistrate and as both a public defender and assistant district attorney.
> County Clerk, Bill Knowles: First elected to his position in 1974, the longtime public servant will be seeking his 13th term in office and has served as clerk longer than anyone else in county history.
The Republican also has a long list of accomplishments in office, from being the first in the state to pioneer license renewals by mail to opening the first full-service tag and title satellite office with extended hours to the first in the state to offer internet license tag renewals.
We also appreciate that Knowles is openly a man of faith (under "Who Is Bill Knowles?" on his campaign website, the first words are "a follower of Jesus Christ"), a conservative and a family man. We can't imagine the clerk's office without Knowles and heartily endorse his re-election.
He is opposed by perennial candidate Chester Heathington and Nivek Rucker, both running as independents.