published Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Von Schaaf won't seek 2nd term as Hamilton County GOP leader


by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Marty Von Schaaf, chairman of the Hamilton County GOP

Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Marty Von Schaaf said Wednesday he won't seek a second term when the party elects new officers early next year.

An influential nominating panel composed of past chairmen will recommend Unum financial risk consultant and WGOW-FM radio host Tony Sanders as Von Schaaf's replacement. But the county party's full executive committee has the final vote, and other nominations could emerge at the convention, creating a floor battle.

Before deciding on Sanders, the nominating panel debated several other Republicans, including former congressional hopeful Tommy Crangle and Hamilton County Pachyderm Club President Joe Manuel.

"I think we'll come in unified. Tony has proven himself an effective fundraiser," said Bobby Wood, the former state representative from Harrison who led the panel.

Party Vice Chairwoman Allison Brewster said the media will be allowed into the county party convention, which hasn't been scheduled. Journalists were excluded from the 2011 reorganization.

Von Schaaf is a sales consultant at Marshall Mize Ford in Hixson. Without elaborating, he said personal and professional reasons precluded another term.

"I'm proudest that I didn't create any media circuses and got Republicans elected," he said. "I don't need the spotlight. I'm the guy behind the scenes with a lot of people helping me."

Von Schaaf said his biggest accomplishments were electing conservatives and establishing a spacious headquarters on the corner of Main and Chestnut streets. Local Republican groups formerly used a smaller building on North Market Street.

Supporters said Von Schaaf improved the local party's political slate. He leaves the Hamilton County Commission with seven Republicans and two Democrats. Even more lopsided is the Hamilton County legislative delegation in Nashville, with six Republicans and one Democrat after November balloting. And for the first time in county party history, Von Schaaf actively recruited Republican and tea party candidates for nonpartisan city elections in 2013.

"He's a people motivator, and he gives solid advice," said County Commissioner Joe Graham. "He knew good spots for your campaign signs, how to word the brochures. You need that as a candidate."

But some activists said Von Schaaf was unavailable too often and didn't focus enough on fundraising. Sources said financial know-how is the momentum behind Sanders, an accountant and onetime campaign treasurer for Commissioner Marty Haynes.

"The party financially is in a lean time," said Delores Vinson, the former chairwoman Von Schaaf defeated in 2011.

Von Schaaf declined to discuss the county party's money matters, but he acknowledged a busy life.

"The time requirement to be chairman takes a lot of time away from the regular working man, which I am," he said.

According to emails obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the nominating panel will recommend former congressional staffer Paulina Madaris for vice chairman; Hamilton County Young Republicans Chairman George Jackson for treasurer; and longtime GOP activist Teresa Wood for secretary.

Brewster, the sister of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, said she'll stay on as vice treasurer.

Officer positions are unpaid.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party also reorganizes next year. It's unclear whether Chairman Paul Smith will seek another term. He did not return a phone call Wednesday.

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