published Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Rivalry returns to Hamilton District 6

A former Hamilton County commissioner is trying to reclaim District 6 for the Democrats in the Aug. 7 county general election, and the Republican incumbent says he's up for the challenge.

When incumbent Commissioner Joe Graham wrested the seat from John Allen Brooks in 2010, he was the first Republican ever to represent the district, which includes Lookout Valley, St. Elmo, Lookout Mountain, downtown Chattanooga, North Chattanooga and part of Red Bank. In 2010, Graham took 60 percent of the vote over Brooks' 39 percent.

Now Brooks is aiming to return the district to its blue roots.

Along with calling for a comprehensive economic development plan for the county and fighting to get more state funding for education, Brooks wants to see commissioners' discretionary funds abolished and have commission meeting times changed.

"I would like to see us have meetings after 5 p.m. to allow the average person, the working man and woman, to come and be able to listen to it. I think that would make it more accessible," Brooks said.

He also said he would do more to lobby the state for aid.

"If you are going to be a commissioner for this county you have to stand up for it. You can't look at the governor and say, well, he's in my party, we can't do anything about it," Brooks said.

Graham said Brooks may have good-sounding ideas, but already has had his chance in District 6.

"When I first starting running in 2010, most of the constituents in District 6 didn't even know who their commissioner was and what the county had done for them," Graham said.

Graham promised he will continue to be involved with the communities in the district, continue doing his homework for meetings and continue to work to keep government spending down.

"I figured it out the other day that I have been to 975 additional meetings just since being elected. Every neighborhood cleanup day, work day -- after the tornado, I was in St. Elmo with my tractor. I've done what I think a public servant should do."

Despite the district being majority Democratic, Graham expects he still will have support from the voters who elected him the first time.

"The people just wanted somebody who was willing to get in there and get to know them and get involved with their projects," Graham said.

Brooks said last week he lost to Graham the first time because 2010 "was not a good year for Democrats." He said he is confident he would carry his party in August.

"All I can do is run and do what I think is right," Brooks said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

IMPORTANT DATES

July 8: Last day to register to vote

July 31: Last day to request an absentee ballot

July 18-Aug. 2: Early voting

Aug. 7: State primary and county general election

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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