Chattanooga City Councilman Andraé McGary skipped a City Council meeting Tuesday to campaign for state Senate, missing 14 votes and a citizen's complaint about a housing project in his district.
Before addressing 30 people at the Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women's Club, McGary said he unsuccessfully negotiated with club officials to reschedule the meeting.
"I try to schedule things around City Council," he said. "However, there's one or two events like this where unfortunately they're scheduled on Tuesday night."
McGary is a former radio talk show host and the Democratic nominee campaigning for the 10th District Senate seat held by Sen. Andy Berke, a Democrat who's running for Chattanooga mayor.
Todd Gardenhire, McGary's Republican opponent, described McGary's absence as "a shame for his district and the city."
"If he's not going to tend to city business," Gardenhire said, "he ought to step aside and campaign full time."
Gardenhire said that, if he beats McGary, he won't miss any Legislature business to campaign. He added that he doesn't plan to seek an office higher than state Senate.
McGary gave a spirited 15-minute speech at a local union hall in the Highway 58 area, broaching Sept. 11, 2001, in the bipartisan context he's using to court voters.
"Now here we are 10 years later," he said. "I think it's time we put our country first again."
Meanwhile, the City Council voted 14 times, discussing housing issues, zoning disputes and new ordinances.
At the end of the meeting, Chattanooga resident Teresa St. Clair described chronic violence at East Lake Courts, a housing project in McGary's City Council district. She referred to a Sept. 8 shooting there in which a 21-year-old woman was killed.
"There's a child without a mom now," she said.
Councilman Peter Murphy mentioned McGary's absence, saying he "had to go" without elaborating.
City Attorney Mike McMahan has said McGary would have to resign his council seat only if he's elected to the state Senate. Otherwise, his term expires in 2013.
Staff writer Cliff Hightower contributed reporting.
Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at email@example.com or 423-757-6610.