Former Chattanooga City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem’s name will remain on the ballot for City Council elections this March, despite a challenge today from an attorney who questioned Hakeem’s eligibility.
Stuart James, an attorney and former chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, argued that Hakeem should be disqualified from the race because he had not filed campaign finance disclosures between 2005 and this year — after he qualified to run for City Council.
Hakeem is running against incumbent District 9 Councilman Peter Murphy. Hakeem had about $33,000 remaining in his campaign fund from previous elections, and should have been filing disclosures biannually, said Stuart.
Despite James’ objections to Hakeem’s eligibility, the Hamilton County Election Commission voted unanimously to keep Hakeem’s name on the ballot in the interest of letting voters decide.
“It has always been this commission’s position that we let the voter decide who gets elected, even if the candidate, in some cases, did not have the ability to properly fill out his paperwork,” said Commission Chairman Mike Walden.
“We’ve erred on the side that we allow people to run for office and let the voters decide — or let a judge of people choose to take it to Chancery Court.
Commission Attorney Chris Clem said he had brought the issue before state election officials, who said that the decision must be left to the county Election Commission’s discretion.
“If this went to court, I think [the ruling] could go either way,” said Clem.
For more information, read Thursday’s Times Free Press.