Tim Kelly was far ahead in the Chattanooga mayor's runoff election after early vote totals and the first 20 precincts were released. He quickly declared himself the winner, and he finished ahead by over 5,000 votes. He won 15,966 to 10,661.
Among early voters, it was Kelly 8,623 to 4,988 for Kim White, former president of the River City Company who was vying to be the city's first female mayor, after the ballots of those who voted early were counted. Ms. White called Mr. Kelly to congratulate him after the race in which both candidates refrained from name calling.
Ms. White told supporters, “As hard as it is to stand here tonight without the outcome we wanted, I stand here saying that this campaign has truly been a highlight of my life. I am proud to have been part of this journey where I got to meet and engage with people all across our community. People who love this city and want to be part of making it better. That’s what this campaign has been about - our city, what makes it special and how together we can build on what we have. We may be disappointed in the outcome, but we share an optimism for our wonderful city. I thank you deeply for your support.”
With 20 of the city's 85 voting sites reporting, the Kelly lead was 9,847 to 5,678, and it was then he declared victory.
After 43 precincts were in, the totals were Kelly 11,398, White 6,530. With 61 precincts in, the Kelly lead was 12,911 to 8,113.
Mr. Kelly formerly operated a family auto dealership and has a motorcycle store in East Ridge. He has been a leader in the Chattanooga Football Club (CFC).
In the City Council District 2 race, Jenny Hill took the victory. She had 1,284 votes to 850 for Thomas Lee. Ms. Hill has said she plans to keep her seat on the County School Board as well. After 20 precincts reported, the Hill lead was 1,549 to 997. Ms. Hill won 2,721 to 1,762.
The seat was previously held by Jerry Mitchell, who did not seek a new term. He endorsed Ms. Hill as his successor.
In District 5, Isiah Hester defeated Dennis Clark after leading early 880 to 816. By the top 20 precincts were in, the Hester lead was 1,011 to 853. With 40 precincts in, it was Hester 1,170 and Clark 1,040. After 63 precincts reported, the Hester advantage was 1,598 to 1,332. Mr. Hester won 1,598 to 1,332.
That seat had been held by Russell Gilbert for the past 12 years. He opted to run for mayor.
Mr. Kelly was joined by his wife Ginny, family, friends and supporters as the 54-year-old declared victory. His campaign said he would be sworn into office on April 19 "and his detailed plan for the first 100 days of his administration will be immediately put into action."
Mr. Kelly said, “Chattanoogans from every walk of life came together to choose a better way forward. A way forward that ensures every child in our community has access to the early education opportunities they need to succeed. A way forward that will begin to close the opportunity gap between our neighbors. A way forward that brings every community to the table around our common purpose as Chattanoogans, instead of dividing us along the same old partisan lines that too often keep us distant and bitter toward one another. Together, we chose One Chattanooga. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Chattanooga.”
Acknowledging "the urgent challenges presented by COVID-19 and the economic toll the pandemic has taken on the city," Mr. Kelly said his team will reach out to Mayor Andy Berke and members of his administration immediately to begin the transition process.
He said, “In the coming days, I will announce the members of my leadership team that will help advise me as we prepare to govern and act on day one. Our city’s public health and the health of our economy are linked together, that’s why my administration will prioritize ensuring our vaccination efforts are effective and don’t leave our most vulnerable communities behind. As we get vaccines into arms, the City will quickly transition to a recovery plan to jumpstart our economy and make sure that good jobs and economic opportunity remain the cornerstone of our economic development strategy. Tomorrow, the work starts to build a better economy than the one we left behind - one that includes all Chattanoogans."
“I’ve learned that one of the pleasures of running for public office is getting to know a lot of interesting people along the way, particularly people who share my passion for this city,” Mr. Kelly said, expressing his appreciation to Kim White and her campaign. “While we might’ve disagreed on an issue or two here or there, Kim and I share a common passion for Chattanooga that made this race feel constructive rather than divisive and for that I hold a tremendous amount of respect for her. I look forward to working with her to move Chattanooga forward.”
He said, “Chattanooga can and will be the best city in America, and it’s not because of our gig, or our tourism sector, or even our great outdoors - as amazing as all of those things are. Chattanooga has this potential because of her truly extraordinary people, people who value this place, and our common purpose, more than they value themselves. I’ve never been more grateful to have met and heard from so many of them. And I’ll continue to do so in the months and years ahead.”
Just 26,705 of 114,289 eligible voters cast ballots.