At an open forum hosted by the Nightside Pachyderm Club, the candidates running for positions on the Hamilton County Commission agreed that they were against new taxes, forced annexation and domestic partner benefits.
Randy Fairbanks, running against Commission Chairman Fred Skillern for the District 1 position, said he was a UTC graduate and an accountant. He told the crowd he had been involved in Republican politics since the early 1990s.
He said if elected he wanted to get out into the community and be a commissioner that people could talk to.
When asked if he would support a tax increase to fund projects put forward by the School Board, he said he was not in favor of any tax increase. He said, "You have to live within your means."
When asked what he had done to fight annexation, he said he did not have any experience living in an area that had fought annexation.
He was also asked if he would support same-sex benefits. He said he would not for religious reasons.
The next three candidates, Perry Perkins, Sabrena Turner and Phil Smartt, are all running for the District 7 position.
Mr. Perkins opened, saying, "We've all pledged to run a good, clean campaign." He said, if elected, he wanted to focus on "making sure people want to move to Chattanooga when they graduate from school." He also said he wanted students who graduated from Chattanooga schools to be able to find good-paying jobs here without having to go to Nashville or Atlanta.
When asked about increasing taxes, he said he believed every commissioner would face that battle soon. He said, "We have to support those schools," but told the audience money should be raised through growth and not tax increases.
He said he believed annexation could be fought more at the state level than local level but that he was against it.
As for same-sex benefits, he said, "I will never vote for anything against the Tennessee state law. Tennessee state law says that marriage is between a man and a woman."
He closed, saying, "It comes down to leadership, having a vision for this county. I can reach out to people with different ideas from different walks of life."
Phil Smartt started, "I believe in the values the Republican Party stands for." He said he had been a manager on the Reagan campaign and involved on the Romney campaign.
He said he believed that one of the keys to solving the crime problem was strong and traditional families.
When asked about taxes for education, he said, "I don't think at the present time there's need for a tax increase. I think there are other ways this can be done." He said since all of his children had attended Hamilton County schools, he had also had experience with the public school system.
He said he was against annexation and same-sex benefits. He said, "I'm against domestic partners. I'm totally opposed to it, I think it's wrong."
He said, "I'm the best qualified not only because I've served in small business for 38 years, but also because I've served in government and I know how government works."
Sabrena Turner, running against Mr. Perkins and Mr. Smartt, described herself as a small business owner who had worked on building lasting relationships with the people of District 7.
She said leadership was needed to keep the county growing. She said, "I want to look out for Hamilton County as a whole."
As for the annexation question, she disagreed with her opponents. She said, "I'm going to disagree with Mr. Perkins, it is fought on the local level. I've done it, filed lawsuits, and stopped it."
She also said she would never vote in favor of same-sex benefits and said she would only support a tax increase "if it were a dire emergency and there were no other options."
She said, "It's time for a new generation to lead."
Currently, there is also a three-way race in District 8 on the Republican side. Current Commissioner Tim Boyd is running for re-election against former Commissioner Curtis Adams and East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert.
Commissioner Boyd described himself as an entrepreneur and businessman who got into politics four years ago. He said since he had become a commissioner, he has worked to develop literacy and alternative sentencing programs with high success rates.
When asked about taxes, he said, "We do not need new taxes in Hamilton County at this time." He said the revenue coming into the county had increased, as had the fund balance.
He gave a solution to the issue of same-sex benefits. He said no one but the employee should be covered and if they wanted to bring someone else into the plan, they should have to pay the premium. He also said he did not support annexation.
As he closed, he said, "I'm a very analytic person. I represent the people. I'm not there to make a lot of friends. I ask the tough questions."
Curtis Adams, who previously was elected six times to the County Commission, said he used to be called the "Education Commissioner" because of his work to improve Hamilton County Schools.
He said, "We need to put our muscle into the schools that are weakest and help them get what they need."
He suggested a $25 wheel tax as an alternative to other tax increases to fund the school system. When asked about annexation, he said, "I think anybody would be crazy to want to be annexed." Like the others, he was also adamantly opposed to same-sex benefits as well.
He said, "I believe the reason I was elected six times for County Commissioner was because I did a good job." He also said he "tried to look after the little things about people, such as looking out for senior citizens."
He joked, "I didn't read anything in the Bible where it mentions retirement."
East Ridge Mayor Lambert said he was a "lifelong resident of the area and a lifelong Republican." He also said he was serving his sixth year on the East Ridge City Council.
He said, "I want to improve economic development in District 8." He also said if elected, he would work to create "stronger schools."
Mr. Lambert had to leave before he could answer any other questions, but he said he was also against annexation.