published Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Yusuf Hakeem says election commission move was political


by Cliff Hightower
Yusuf Hakeem represents District 9.
Yusuf Hakeem represents District 9.

Haslam names replacement

NASHVILLE — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam this week named a recently defeated state GOP lawmaker to replace former Chattanooga City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem on the Tennessee Board of Parole.

Former Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, who was chairman of the House Education Committee, was appointed by Haslam to a six-year term on the seven-member board Tuesday. The agency makes determinations on whether to grant parole to convicted felons in state custody.

The job pays $93,732 a year.

Hakeem was appointed in 2006 by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. He is running for city councilman in the March election.

Montgomery lost his re-election bid to the state House in last August's Republican primary.

District 9 City Council candidate Yusuf Hakeem said Wednesday he believes a failed attempt to oust him from the March ballot is a political move by the man he is trying to unseat.

Hakeem spoke after attorney Stuart James appeared before the Hamilton County Election Commission to argue Hakeem should be taken off the ballot because he had not filed financial disclosures since 2005.

"Mr. James is a primary supporter of my opponent," Hakeem said.

Hakeem is challenging City Councilman Peter Murphy in the March 5 election. James said Wednesday there was nothing political about his attempts to get Hakeem's name taken off the ballot.

James said he became aware of problems after doing research and thought the election commission should know about potential problems.

"I decided to do it to bring it to light," James said.

James told election commissioners that Hakeem, a longtime councilman for District 9, had failed to submit semiannual reports on almost $33,000 left over from his previous campaigns. James said state law requires candidates to file financial disclosure statements each year; by not doing so, Hakeem was not eligible to run, he said.

Chris Clem, election commission attorney, said the state election commission advised him that the issue should be handled locally.

"They told us it was ours," Clem said.

The election commission voted 5-0 Wednesday morning to keep Hakeem's name on the ballot.

Hakeem said afterward he thought it "showed great wisdom on their part" and noted that Clem told commissioners Hakeem would win any lawsuit that's filed.

James said Wednesday the issue has been settled.

"I don't think I'm going to file a lawsuit," he said. "But someone else can."

Staff writer Kate Harrison contributed to this report.

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