Former state Sen. Andy Berke won election as mayor of Chattanooga in Tuesday’s city elections with an overwhelmingly margin over opponents Robert Chester Heathington Jr. and Guy Satterfield, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “The time for renewal is now,” Berke told a cheering crowd of more than 200 people in the Waterhouse Pavilion at Miller Plaza.
Voter turnout was anemic, at just 16 percent, Hamilton County Election Commission records show. Of the 111,324 registered voters in the city, 18,194 ballots were cast.
Berke won 72 percent of the vote. Satterfield received 24 percent and Heathington recorded 3.7 percent of the vote. All vote totals are unofficial until provisional ballots are counted.
Once in office, Berke will make $146,607 annually and will serve a four-year term. He will oversee a $210 million budget to serve a city of 170,000 people.
Berke announced last May that he would run for the city’s top elected seat. Since that time, he raised more than $670,000, the most for a mayoral candidate in Chattanooga history.
In the race for Chattanooga mayor, reports the Times-Free Press, former state Sen. Andy Berke has some things in his favor: $674,000, 300 volunteers, four paid staff and wealthy donors. His opponents are working with notably less. Former city employee Guy Satterfield has only spent $1,800 so far, all his own money. He doesn’t command dozens of helpers or host fundraising parties.
“If there’s a sign out, I put it there,” Satterfield said. “If there’s a door hanger, I put it there.”
Still, Satterfield and frequent candidate Robert Chester Heathington Jr. said the end of the campaign is unwritten and their runs shouldn’t be dismissed.
“The election’s going to be an upset,” Heathington said Friday. “A real big upset.”
With Andy Berke expected to be elected soon as Chattanooga mayor, Andy Sher takes a look at his previous political career in the state Legislature. There are mostly compliments. The story starts like this: As chairman of the state Senate Education Committee, Republican Delores Gresham sometimes worked with Sen. Andy Berke and sometimes fought with him over a GOP agenda minority Democrats thought went too far.
Gresham, a no-nonsense former Marine colonel from West Tennessee, said she developed respect for the 44-year-old attorney who is widely seen as the frontrunner in the Chattanooga mayor’s race.
The other candidates are former city employee Guy Satterfield and perennial candidate Robert Chester Heathington Jr. The nonpartisan election is March 5.
“If [Berke] had a conviction about a certain issue, he would not hesitate to speak,” Gresham said.
She and Berke were among lawmakers who worked with Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2009 as he began developing K-12 and higher education initiatives. Those bipartisan efforts earned Tennessee national recognition and a $500 million federal Race to the Top grant.
“He’s a great guy; he’s a smart guy, and I always appreciated his incisiveness and insights even though I didn’t agree with him 99 percent of the time,” chuckled Gresham.
Berke’s legislative experience will make him a “fantastic mayor,” said Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, “because he’s gained an understanding of how government functions.
Almost two months after Hamilton County Democratic officials said they would stay out of the March Chattanooga mayor’s race, they changed their minds and endorsed Andy Berke, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The qualifying deadline for the Chattanooga City elections passed last week, as the newspaper also noted in a separate story.
Three people qualified for the mayoral race — former state Sen. Andy Berke, perennial candidate Chester Heathington Jr. and former city employee Guy Satterfield.
Former East Ridge Manager and Red Bank Public Works Commissioner Wayne Hamill expressed interest in running last week but did not qualify. Another potential mayoral candidate, businessman and former Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy, dropped out last week.
The exit of a potentially strong candidate from the 2013 Chattanooga mayor’s race Friday appears to leave almost a clear path for former state Sen. Andy Berke to walk into office, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Rob Healy, former Parks and Recreation director and businessman, dropped out Friday. Wayne Hamill, former Red Bank public works director and East Ridge city manager, and Chester Heathington Jr., a perennial candidate in local races, picked up qualifying papers.
Former city employee Guy Satterfield also is running.
“That would seem to be no contest at all,” said Dr. Richard Wilson, political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
He said it is unprecedented for such a weak field to be lining up against a strong candidate in an open election. Mayor Ron Littlefield is term-limited and can’t seek re-election.
“I’m surprised the community is not putting up an alternative,” Wilson said.
Healy sent out a news release Friday saying he was ending his run and hinting that lack of money was the reason.
It’s not every day that a legislator refuses to endorse his party’s nominee for the seat he’s leaving, observes Chris Carroll. But that’s the source of palpable awkwardness between Chattanooga mayoral candidate and state Sen. Andy Berke and the Democratic nominee for Berke’s 10th District seat, City Councilman Andraé McGary.
“People are coming up asking me, ‘Andraé, does Andy support you?'” McGary said Friday. “I have to tell them honestly and realistically, ‘I don’t know. I really don’t know.'”
McGary, 33, said he needs Berke’s reputation and vast fundraising network behind him as he battles against Republican Todd Gardenhire in a recently redrawn, conservative-leaning district.
“Andraé, I’m sure, is out there trying to establish his own identity,” Berke, 44, said Thursday. “I’m going to vote for him.”
But the Chattanooga attorney has no plans for the public show of affection McGary wants.
Berke’s political allies said he has his reasons, mostly involving the transition from an increasingly red vs. blue Legislature to the nonpartisan environment he must conquer to succeed Mayor Ron Littlefield in March city elections.
“It would probably make the Gardenhire people less inclined to support Andy,” said Councilman Jack Benson, who knows Berke and McGary well.
. The Berke campaign issued a statement Wednesday about his candidacy, but did not respond when asked why Berke is raising money in Knoxville for a Chattanooga mayoral run.
…(E)ven a supporter and campaign contributor expressed surprise Wednesday when told Berke planned a Knoxville reception.
“That’s news to me,” said Joe Decosimo, owner of Decosimo Certified Public Accountants. “Why would he go to Knoxville? He has enough support in the city, he doesn’t need to go there.”
Eighteen hosts are listed on the invitation, including Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, and former Republican Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe. Guests include current Democratic Knoxville Mayor Madeleine Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
Club Leconte is on the 27th floor of the First Tennessee Plaza Building, overlooking downtown Knoxville. According to its website, the club was formed to “serve Knoxville’s corporate, political, cultural and academic community.”
Two other potential mayoral hopefuls in Chattanooga also said they were surprised that Berke was going out of town to raise money.
…Burchett, reached by phone Wednesday, said Berke is a longtime friend — the two served together in the Tennessee Senate.
Even though he’s a Republican, Burchett said, he thinks Berke is a man of honor and would make an excellent mayor.
“If Andy tells me it’s going to snow, I’m probably going to go to Emory’s Five and Dime and get a sled,” Burchett said. “Because he’s honest.”
Sen. Andy Berke is calling on lawmakers to conduct a “thorough review” of a for-profit virtual school operating in a Northeast Tennessee school district, citing state student testing results he charges show “dismal” results, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Berke, D-Chattanooga, is a frequent critic of K12 Inc.’s Tennessee Virtual Academy, which in the 2011-12 school year opened its online school under contract with the Union County Public Schools system.
According to best estimates from K12, about 1,800 K-8 students from across the state signed up last school year to sit at their home computers and take courses online with support from K12 teachers. The company operates in states across the country.
In a letter Wednesday to Senate Education Committee Chairman Delores Gresham, Berke says state Education Department testing data for the 2011-12 school year show Tennessee Virtual Academy students “performed in the bottom 11 percent of schools statewide.
“As the [school] is advertising on television — and the state anticipates shifting millions of additional tax dollars to [the school] this school year — it is important that we examine K12 Inc.’s performance,” wrote Berke, whose efforts to require an audit of K12’s Tennessee school went nowhere in the Republican-controlled General Assembly last session.
Berke said in an interview Thursday that “if we’re going to use taxpayer dollars … we should ask for real achievement. K12 doesn’t give it to us.”
Gresham, R-Somerville, was the primary Senate sponsor of the 2011 law authorizing local school systems to contract with for-profit online schools. She did not respond Thursday to a reporter’s request to comment on Berke’s criticisms.
Tennessee Virtual Academy’s head, Josh Williams, said in an email that 2011-12 was the school’s first year of operation, suggesting it was unfair to judge results solely on that basis.
“All students were in their first year and most transferred from another district in the state,” he said. “The modality for learning and the school itself were new to every student.”
Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, is asking state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to conduct an independent review of the operations of a for-profit virtual school operating under contract with the Union County school system, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. In a letter to Huffman, sent Wednesday, Berke cites a study released this month by the National Education Policy Center that is critical of K12 Inc.’s national operations based on 2010-11 data.
K12 officials, which opened an online K-8 school with Union County for the 2011-12 school year, take issue with the center’s study. Company spokesman Jeff Kwitowski called it “deeply flawed” and filled with “numerous errors and wrong assumptions.”
Berke, a persistent critic of K12, noted in the letter that Tennessee’s First to the Top Act of 2010, which he co-sponsored, targeted several areas of education reform, including teachers and leaders, data, standards and assessment as well as “school turnaround.”
“The findings in the report indicate that schools operated by K12 Inc. fail in each of these four areas,” Berke said.
…”It will also be subject to the same accountability as other schools” such as priority and focus, Gauthier said. “So when we have school level results” which are likely this fall, “it will [be] part of that puzzle.”
“We think Sen. Berke’s request has merit, and we intend to look closely at the results and report back to him,” she said. “We don’t think AYP is the appropriate indicator, but we do think that we should look at value-added scores and overall achievement scores, and will do so in the coming weeks.”
K12 said the National Education Policy report “provides no evidence backing up this claim” that students managed by K12 are “falling behind” and “more likely to fall behind” in reading and math scores compared to brick-and-mortar schools.
State Sen. Andy Berke is already posting behemoth numbers for a mayoral election that is still eight months away, according to the Chattanooga TFP.
The Chattanooga Democrat has raised $271,050 since he declared in May that he would run for mayor of Chattanooga. He now has $383,000 in cash on hand, putting him in a fundraising position not seen since former Mayor Bob Corker ran in 2001.
“We have laid a strong foundation, with over 600 donors and 300 volunteers,” Berke said in a statement. “In the coming months we will continue reaching out to people who are interested in leadership that works on the economic development and quality-of-life issues facing our community.”
The Andy Berke for Mayor campaign released its financial disclosure statement to the Times Free Press on Friday. Campaign officials said they plan to give the disclosure to the Hamilton County Election Commission this week.
Other potential mayoral candidates said Friday they were not surprised by the results.
Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield founder Jim Folkner, former Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy, Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd, County Commissioner Warren Mackey and Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee President Roger Tuder are considering mayoral runs.