Monty Bell will remain on the ballot, but Michelle Peterson was taken off after the Election Commission waded through challenges and issues pertaining to three of Chattanooga’s mayoral candidates.
Fellow candidate Monty Bruell and his attorney, Lee Davis, came before the commission and asked for the Commission to remove Monty Bell from the ballot. His reasoning was that Mr. Bell, who is homeless, put down the Community Kitchen as his residence.
“It is not a residential address, it is not zoned for permanent residence. It can be where one be one receives mail, but not one where one resides,” Mr. Bruell said. “I’m not addressing it as a cold-weather shelter, just as a permanent residence. I want to make it clear my challenge is not an attack on the homeless, and that a homeless person can be a candidate for mayor.”
However, the Commission did not support this idea, as Chairman Mike Walden said the Community Kitchen is already a place the homeless are allowed to put down as an address when registering to vote. He said that if people are allowed to vote using that address, why wouldn’t they be allowed to run for mayor using the same address?
The Commission also noted that Mr. Bell has lived in Chattanooga for over 30 years, and even if he does not pay rent or have a mortgage, he still is a citizen of Chattanooga.
“We’ve voted for people to run when they couldn’t complete the application, and we let the voters decide who to vote for,” Chairman Walden said. “I always believe we should err on the side of letting the public have the opportunity to vote.”
City attorney Phil Noblett concurred with the Commissioners, and they voted to keep Mr. Bell on the ballot.
“I didn’t get the rule of law that says a homeless person cannot seek an office in the city where they resign,” Mr. Bell said. “I haven’t been able to put out any of my campaign information or talk to my constituents because I have been challenged about my residency. That makes no sense.
“I’ve been a voice of the Community Kitchen for almost 30 years. I was not informed by the Hamilton County Election Commission that this thing was going to happen, and I have not been able to prepare myself.”
Ms. Peterson was also removed from the ballot at her request, as she had not technically been a resident of Chattanooga for at least a year when she voted in the primary election last spring. She said she did not mean to mislead anyone, and the council simply voted to take her off the ballot. Any candidate must be a resident of Chattanooga for at least a year.