Election commission votes to hold city mayor's race in 2012
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- After battling door-to-door and in the courts for more than a year, opponents of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield have gained more ground in their fight to force him out of office before he completes his second term.
The Hamilton County Election Commission has certified their recall petitions. Barring an appeal, Littlefield faces an election to replace him next August.
"It's a victory in a battle," recall leader Jim Folkner says. "A battle for better government, good government, getting our budget under control."
Folkner insists it's a practical victory too; even though anybody who might defeat Littlefield would serve only until the scheduled election in March 2013.
"Anybody who might run for this position is gonna run on the same standards the following year," he says. "So they'll have a leg up on the election. Also, a chance to prove themselves."
The Election Commission expects Mayor Littlefield to appeal, according to administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan.
Mayor Littlefield reportedly is weighing his options, but a written release from spokesman Richard Beeland all but declares he will appeal the Commission's decision.
"There are many unanswered questions that the Hamilton County Election Commission willingly ignored. Most notably, the Election Commission failed to take into consideration the inaccuracies and inconsistencies clearly pointed out to the Circuit Court last year. No final decision has been reached by a court regarding the legality of the signatures collected or the number of signatures needed to proceed with a recall."
Littlefield's attorney, Tom Greenholtz, put it this way in arguments before the Tennessee Court of Appeals August 17.
"Does the Election Commission draw the line, or does the legislature draw the line," he asks.
The Appeals Court overturned a Circuit Court decision that stayed a recall election. It declined to rule whether the Election Commission should apply its standard for determining the number of signatures needed to qualify a recall petition (a percentage of the number of voters who cast ballots in the previous Mayoral election), or the state standard (a percentage of the total number of registered voters).
The state standard would have required 15,000 valid signatures, Mayor Littlefield's attorneys maintain.
Instead, the Election Commission applied its own standard; determining the recall petitions had more than the 8,957 signatures it says were needed.
Folkner is hopeful that the court fights have ended.
"I hope he (Littlefield) will look at his legacy," he says. "A legacy of either trying to stay in power through the court system and expensive lawyers, or look at what the will of the people is."
Should the recall petitioners prevail, candidates for the August mayoral race could pick up qualifying petitions January 12, Mullis-Morgan says.
The deadline to return them would be April 5, 2012.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this developing story.