published Friday, August 15th, 2014

Candidates see little late movement

Galloway Best Finisher

Among candidates in competitive races in the Aug. 7 state primaries and general election, District 6 Hamilton County Board of Education member Joe Galloway made the biggest improvement between early voting and Election Day tabulations, according to unofficial results from the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Galloway, a longtime teacher, coach and administrator at Lookout Valley High School, was third with 30 percent of the vote in a three-man race with Oscar Brock and Ballard Scearce after early voting ended Aug. 2. On Election Day, though, he got 38.3 percent of the vote, enough to climb over his two challengers and retain his seat.

Early voting results are not announced before Election Day but are are parsed by the Election Commission afterward.

Others who sprinted to the finish with big gains were newly elected public defender Steve Smith, who took 60.9 percent of the early vote but 66.3 percent on Election Day in his race against incumbent Ardena Garth; District 8 County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who went from 51.3 to 56.7 percent in his race with Kenny Smith; and Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw, who climbed from 66.2 percent to 70.5 percent in his contest with Yolanda Echols Mitchell.

The biggest tumble from early voting to Election Day belonged to incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander, who had 76 percent of the votes between him and challenger Joe Carr in early balloting but only 65.2 percent in the votes between the two on Election Day.

Indeed, according to Eric Ostermeier of the online political news site Smart Politics, Alexander recorded the lowest winning percentage (49.7 percent) and margin of victory (9.2 points) for a sitting Republican U.S. senator ever recorded in a Tennessee statewide primary. And challenger Joe Carr took a larger percentage of the vote (40.5 percent) than the previous 11 challengers to sitting GOP Tennessee U.S. senators combined (40.3 percent).

Another County Commission race where a late effort fell short was in District 1. The write-in candidacy of Rhonda Thurman against Republican primary winner Randy Fairbanks improved from 31.8 percent of early votes to 34.3 percent on Election Day -- more than a third of voters -- but that proved too little, too late.

In races in which thousands of dollars of advertising were spent, defeated 3rd District congressional candidate Weston Wamp improved from 49.6 percent of the early vote to 50.1 percent of votes on Election Day; state Rep. Vince Dean improved 3.8 percent (from 52.4 percent to 56.2 percent) in his winning bid to be Criminal Court clerk; and the drive against domestic partner benefits for Chattanooga city employees improved 2.3 percent (from 61.3 percent to 63.6 percent).

In another expensive race, whether to retain or replace Supreme Court Justices Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade, Hamilton County produced some odd results. The votes to retain Clark improved from 55.7 percent to 58.6 percent from early voting to Election Day, but the votes to retain Lee and Wade fell .5 percent and .4 percent, respectively.

The unofficial county voter turnout was 53,685, or 26.1 percent of 206,044 registered voters. That included 21,535 (10.45 percent) people who voted early and 32,150 (15.6 percent) who voted on Election Day.

The turnout was slightly higher than the last county general election in 2010 (24.91 percent) but slightly down from 2006 (27.97 percent) and down further from 2002 (30 percent).

What's apparent from the numbers is for most elections in this cycle, late advertising changed little. The negative advertising of Wamp's opponent, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, apparently moved the needle a hair toward the challenger but not quite enough to make a difference. And the tea party-driven Carr campaign did make inroads against Alexander, but the incumbent senator had too much entrenched support.

In the future, candidates might be wise to close the deal up front.

Wine Drive Winding Down

Petitioners have less than a week to gain signatures in nine Hamilton County municipalities and in the unincorporated areas of Hamilton County to get a referendum on the ballot in November for wine sales in grocery stores.

Red White and Food, a nonprofit coalition formed by the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, is spearheading the efforts across the state. The law requires signatures, which must be verified by the Hamilton County Election Commission, from 10 percent of registered voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

To date, according to figures from the Election Commission, the required number of signatures have been turned in for the residents of Lakesite and Red Bank.

The referendum requires, among other things, 3,865 signatures from Chattanooga residents and 3,246 from unincorporated areas of Hamilton County. Drives also are underway in Collegedale, East Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Soddy-Daisy and Walden.

Red White and Food, according to information on its website, has yet to collect the required number of valid signatures to place the wine referendum on the November ballot in Cleveland, the only eligible municipality in Bradley County. However, enough signatures have been collected to place the referendum on the ballot in Dunlap, the only eligible municipality in Sequatchie County.

Even if the referendum gets the proper number of signatures and the measure is voted on favorably in November, wine sales in Tennessee grocery stores could not begin until July 2016, according to the bill passed in the General Assembly earlier this year.

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