Chris Anderson recall, Chattanooga, Tennessee (2014)
Recall supporter arguments
In January 2014, Chattanooga resident Charlie Wysong submitted paperwork to initiate recall proceedings against Anderson. At issue was a domestic partner benefit law championed by Anderson and opposed by Wysong and other recall supporters. Other Anderson opponents claimed the District 7 councilman had distanced himself from the district's black community and had generally failed to represent the needs of his constituents. Recall proponent Mahmood Abdullah said, "[Anderson] doesn't represent what the people want. His only goal is to boost homosexuality." Local pastor Alfred Johnson has claimed to be the leader of the recall effort.
In response to the recall effort, Anderson, one of the first openly gay city council members in the state, said, "I knew when I ran for public office that I would have to make decisions that were politically difficult. If you want to recall me over the equal rights of the public servants that work so hard for the City of Chattanooga, bring it on."
In February 2014, Anderson filed suit to request an injunction to stop the recall effort. "The thing is, it takes thousands of votes to win an election, but it only takes one person to file a recall. So the existence of a recall is not indicative of somebody's job performance. It's just the opinion of at least one person. ... They are recalling me because I'm openly gay," said Anderson.
Path to the ballot
- See also: Laws governing recall in Tennessee
The Hamilton County Election Commission approved the petition language at its February 13, 2014 meeting. Recall supporters needed to gather 1,600 signatures in order to trigger a recall election.
Attorney Stuart James submitted a letter to the Election Commission encouraging them to reject the petition. James argued that the recall effort was a "clear abuse of the process."
Election administrator Kerry Steelman reported on March 19, 2014 that recall proponents had so far submitted only 146 valid signatures, well shy of the 1,600 needed to trigger a recall. Officials also reported that several signature pages appeared to be in the same handwriting.
The deadline for recall proponents to submit petitions was April 29, 2014. At that time, 793 signatures had been validated. Recall organizer Charlie Wysong said, "It looks very close. We've [been] doing all the work we can do, and now we're simply praying." Anderson maintained that it was "highly unlikely - almost impossible" that the recall effort would succeed.
In early May 2014, the election commission announced that it had found only 1,179 of the signatures submitted to be valid, meaning that the recall effort had failed and would not go to a vote. Anderson said, "I think, not in my mind, but in their talking points and in their script, it was about bigotry and hatred and I don't have time for those kind of people." Recall proponents maintained that they would continue their efforts. Supporter Gil Shropshire said, "Our next step is that we're going to challenge this voting list [against which signatures were verified] because it needs to be purged ... if it's purged the way it's supposed to be purged, we have more than enough signatures." Elections administrator Kerry Steelman said it was unlikely that a recount or purge would occur. Steelman claimed that a purge had been completed in 2011.
- City of Chattanooga Health Benefits for Domestic Partners Referendum (August 2014)
- Recall campaigns in Tennessee
- Political recall efforts, 2014
- City council recalls
- Times Free Press, "Petition to recall Chris Anderson will be considered next month," January 27, 2014
- The Recall Elections Blog, "Tennessee: First openly gay councilman in state facing recall threats over domestic partner benefit law," January 27, 2014
- WDEF.com, "Anderson Recall Fails, But Neighborhood Group Says 'Its Not Over," May 7, 2014
- Advocate.com, "WATCH: Tenn. Councilman Says He's Being Recalled Because He's Gay," February 19, 2014
- The Recall Elections Blog, "Tennessee: Recall language approved against Chattanooga Councilman," February 14, 2014
- TheChattanoogan.com, "James Says Election Commission Should Reject Anderson Recall," February 11, 2014
- TheChattanoogan.com, "West Says His Group Not The Instigator For Anderson Recall," February 3, 2014
- TheChattanoogan.com, "Effort to Recall City Councilman Chris Anderson Flounders," March 19, 2014
- TheChattanoogan.com, "Group Seeking Recall of Chris Anderson Turns in Slew of Names Just Prior to Deadline; Councilman Confident," April 29, 2014
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