Tag Archives: Claude Ramsey

GOP aspirants eye East Hamilton prize

Although redistricting plans have not yet been made fully public in Tennessee, a few potential candidates in Hamilton County have begun the arduous process of cautiously staking out what they believe (likely on good authority) will be new territory: an open Tennessee House of Representatives district in the eastern part of the county. Given the demographic makeup of the area, such a district would almost certainly be solidly Republican.

Among those the grapevine suggests might be interested are Mike Carter, a former General Sessions Judge, assistant to former County Mayor Claude Ramsey, and 2011 candidate to replace Ramsey; Wes Kliner, an attorney and former election commissioner; Ray Minner, an educator whose political forays include twice narrowly missing being elected to the Collegedale City Commission; and Robin Smith, former Tennessee Republican Party chair and 2010 candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. (It’s not clear whether the new district boundaries would include Smith’s residence; and she is still reportedly deciding whether a rematch with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is her 2012 focus.)

Attempts to confirm these and other active rumors are underway, and updates will be posted as more information becomes available. In the meantime, let me be clear that the above is simply hearsay at the moment, and is not intended as breaking news. It’s just what we sometimes like to talk about here.

UPDATE 11/23: Robin Smith does not live in the proposed new district, so strike her from the list. Also, there is another potential candidate—more to come.

Ramsey replacement will serve with stigma of secrecy

At 9:30 a.m. the Hamilton County Commission will attempt to decide unevenly between two candidates seeking to replace outgoing County Mayor Claude Ramsey. Two previous votes held on the same day (27 December 2010) resulted in a tie. Four commissioners were for Mike Carter, a top Ramsey aide; and four more preferred Commissioner Jim Coppinger.

The vote itself is the not-so-simple culmination of a process that began when Ramsey was first picked to head Governor-elect Bill Haslam’s administration. Many have commented on the lack of public input to the procedure. A public forum was held on Monday, but it was sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Republican Women, not the county commission—and it followed the initial deadlocked vote. Several have decried the Commission’s apparent preference for keeping their intentions private.

Ray Minner, on Facebook:

It is hard to imagine how Commission Chairman Fred Skillern and some of his colleagues could have mucked up this process any worse if they had deliberately set out to try. Larry, his brother Daryll, and his other brother Daryll would have done it cleaner and quicker, and we would have at least been entertained along the way. As it is, the entire episode from beginning to end (Oh, wait! We’re not AT the end yet, are we?) has exposed the reality of just how much these elected officials care about public input, transparency in government, and accountability. Private interviews of the candidates was an idea that should have been dismissed out of hand at its very first mention.

Minner also speculates that for Commissioner Larry Henry, whose application was submitted and then withdrawn, the “political realities” cited likely included closed-door conversations with his colleagues. Henry cast his vote for Coppinger last week.

David Morton, editor of Chattarati, also found fault with the selection process in general, but was particularly disturbed by reports that a scheme is being hatched to seat Commission Chairman Fred Skillern’s preferred candidate:

The proposed deal, for Skillern to step down and clear the way for Coppinger’s ascension, follows the letter of the law. But not its spirit. And as this whole ordeal has played out over the past month, the County Commission has moved further away from the law’s spirit inch by inch, which is quite alarming considering the weight and duration of this particular appointment.

Only holding private interviews was a serious lapse in judgment. Not only does it rob the public of an opportunity to learn more about the candidates, it’s a political liability for commissioners and the appointed mayor. Were it not for the candidate forum sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Republican Women last night, citizens would have had no direct opportunity to learn about their next mayor.

That’s a troubling reality, but not nearly as troubling as the rumored Skillern-Coppinger deal.

Coppinger is not alone in having elected officials attempt to work behind the scenes on his behalf. Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield at first said he was not lobbying for either candidate, but later admitted that he has made calls in support of Carter.

Most acknowledge that neither candidate is a bad choice, and that the county will muddle through the nineteen months or so until a properly elected mayor is seated. But there is also the unfortunate perception that, no matter which candidate gets the job, the remainder of the term will be clouded by lingering suspicions about how it was gotten.

See also: Stuart James

And justice 4-all: Hamilton County Commission deadlocked on mayor vote

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners met this morning to decide a replacement for County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who is leaving local government to serve in Governor-elect Bill Haslam’s administration. No replacement was selected today, however, because the vote and a re-attempt both resulted in a tie.

Although eight people had submitted applications to be considered for the post, only the two frontrunners received nominations in the session: Mike Carter, a former judge and currently special adviser to Ramsey; and Commissioner Jim Coppinger, who represents District 3. With Coppinger unable to vote, the potential for deadlock was realized when Commissioners Chester Bankston, Greg Beck, Tim Boyd, and Warren Mackey cast votes for Carter; and Commissioners Jim Fields, Joe Graham, Larry Henry, and Fred Skillern voted for Coppinger.

The exercise will be repeated on next Wednesday (5 January 2010). As several have noted, the question now becomes “which commissioner will change his vote?” And as Times Free Press reporter Dan Whisenhunt tweeted, County Attorney Rheubin Taylor says that if no action is taken by the 11th (when Ramsey officially steps down), then Commission Chair Skillern becomes interim mayor, and would thus be unable to vote (although a total of 5 votes would still be needed to select a replacement).

All of this re-raises the question “why not a special election to replace Ramsey?” The Tennessee Constitution states in Article VII, Section 2:

Vacancies in county offices shall be filled by the county legislative body, and any person so appointed shall serve until a successor is elected at the next election occurring after the vacancy and is qualified.

The timing is unfortunate, since the next election is in 2012. Some have wondered aloud whether Ramsey should have declined to run for reelection in August, given that he turned around and accepted a job in the Haslam government. The insinuation that Ramsey may have known a job offer was coming is best viewed in the light that Ramsey publicly supported Zach Wamp for governor.

The best possible solution, from the citizens’ point of view, is for the Commission to have conducted the appointment process in as open a manner as possible. Since that did not play out, the best we can hope for is a speedy end to the drama and a return to efficient governing by whomever is chosen.

The powered of the county

The 2010 elections now are fading into memory, and the national campaigns for 2012 have already begun, so this seems as good a time as any to assess Chattanooga’s clout as measured by the roles our elected officials will be assuming. Party caucus elections have been held, committee assignments have been meted, and administrations are being assembled. How did we do? Continue reading

Unity breakfast missing a course

Republicans filled the Country Place Restaurant with cheers for unity on Saturday, following a bitter primary that pitted many of the local party establishment against their eventual electoral conqueror, Chattanooga attorney Chuck Fleischmann. Several of the losing candidates took to the microphone in support of the winner, but the one he beat by the slimmest margin did not attend.

She had an excuse, though. Robin Smith had sent a letter to party chair Delores Vinson explaining that she had already made plans to help her daughter move into a college dormitory that day before hearing about the event. But a telling difference between Smith and some of the others who legitimately couldn’t make it was that no surrogate spoke on Smith’s behalf. Veteran political journalist Tom Humphrey noted that Smith “didn’t mention winner Chuck Fleischmann in a distributed post-election statement.”

Even with the obvious hole in the party’s fabric, local and state leaders exhibited a sense that the general election is sewn up. And how could they not? Democrat John Wolfe—not to mention any of the independent candidates—faces a steep climb just to make it to Chuck’s starting point, both financially and demographically. Surely the anticipated ease of GOP victory helps to salve the party’s wounds.

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