Who's running for Mayor of Chattanooga?
The Chattanooga mayoral race is getting started, with candidates announcing their intentions and others still on the political fence.
If Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke decides to run for re-election, he will not be able to keep his seat without some competition. Councilman Larry Grohn is the first one to publicly say he wants the job.
Mayor Andy Berke has yet to announce if he will seek a second term.
Grohn who represents District 4, which includes the East Brainerd area. He's among the most critical of Mayor Andy Berke's violence reduction initiative or VRI.
"I think it certainly could be better. Even in this neighborhood, we still have bullets flying and people dying. We've got to do better," Larry Grohn, who is running for mayor said.
Mayor Berke would not agree to be interviewed on Wednesday, but did issue a prepared statement:
"We have made tremendous strides over the last three years as a city. While there is more to do to make sure our rising prosperity reaches every neighborhood, I am proud of the results we have achieved and look forward to making an announcement in the coming weeks about continuing this work."
Berke's campaign financial disclosure statement from July confirms more than a quarter of a million dollars in the bank for a campaign.
Currently, Berke makes $161,000, according to the mayor's office.
UTC political science professor Dr. Rick Wilson said he would have an advantage as the incumbent.
"So if there's a lot of candidates, that's going to favor the best known of them and that would be Berke if he chose to run," Dr. Rick Wilson said.
Dr. Wilson said the city hasn't seen a competitive election in 11 years when Ron Littlefield won his first term.
Councilman Ken Smith representing Hixson and District 3 considered a run, but has decided to run for re-election for his current position.
A statement Smith shared with Channel 3 said:
"Over the past year, I have been visiting with business leaders, community groups and residents across Chattanooga and listening to their feedback about the city and its future outlook while exploring a possible mayoral run in 2017. During one of these discussions, a good friend reminded me that politics should be driven by wisdom and good judgment. I also believe it’s driven by timing.
It has been my honor and pleasure to represent District 3 on the Chattanooga City Council where I have worked hard to make an impact in our city and push ideas forward that will help make Chattanooga better. These efforts are why many of my friends, supporters and community leaders have asked me to consider a mayoral run. I am truly humbled by and appreciate all of the encouragement and support, but given the current political climate, I do not believe the timing is right for me to run for Mayor.
At this time, I plan to run for reelection as City Councilman for District 3. The next four years will be a critical time for our city, and I will continue advocate for issues and ideas that I believe will improve city government and make Chattanooga better for everyone."
Channel 3 reached out to the other seven council members. Five of those said no and two did not respond on Wednesday.
"I'm not saying that Mayor Berke and others haven't put forth efforts to improve. I'm saying that what they've done is like putting band aids over gunshot wounds," Grohn said.
Three others Channel 3 has confirmed to be interested include former Berke opponent Guy Satterfield, former Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Ron Harr, and local radio station owner Jim Brewer.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker's Chief of Staff, Todd Womack, was also considered to be a potential candidate.
He issued a statement that said:
“I have a job I love, and while I appreciate the encouragement I have received very much, I do not currently have any plans to make an announcement about running for Mayor.”
According to the Hamilton County Election Commission, the following are qualifications to become mayor:
- Shall be a resident of the City of Chattanooga for at least one year prior to his or her election
- Shall be at least 30 years old
Potential candidates can start qualifying on September 16th up until December 15th at noon. They will also need at least 25 signatures on a petition, according to the election commission.
The election is in March of 2017.