The Hamilton County Election Commission found 25 more votes for Todd Gardenhire in Tennessee’s Senate District 10 race Friday, and now his competitor, Greg Vital, wants a total recount, reports the Times Free Press. The votes, products of an electronic uploading error from voting machines, brought Gardenhire’s lead to 40 votes in the district. Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden said the uploading error from a machine in the Eastdale precinct didn’t count the votes for five candidates there, including Gardenhire.
“We’re in the process of re-uploading the cards again,” Walden said. “The [overall] results didn’t change.”
The new votes increased Gardenhire’s total to 8,020 over Vital’s 7,980 in a district that includes parts of Hamilton and Bradley counties.
Vital released a statement Friday calling for a recount. The election commission plans to certify the election Aug. 16, and Vital then will have five days to request the recount, election commission attorney Chris Clem said.
Early Friday, the Vital campaign hinged its hopes on provisional ballots, but election officials told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that there were only five — two in Hamilton County and three in Bradley County.
The hotly contested 10th Senate District Republican primary teetered on the edge of an electoral cliff late Thursday night, with Republican Todd Gardenhire holding a scant 15-vote lead over rival Greg Vital, according to unofficial returns.
From the Chattanooga TFP: But Gardenhire was unwilling to claim victory and Vital unwilling to concede defeat, saying uncounted provisional ballots and overseas military ballots could change the outcome. Gardenhire called the results “exciting. I don’t think anyone will get any sleep tonight,” he said.
Vital’s campaign said he remains optimistic.
“Tonight has been exciting, and too close to call. With provisional ballots still out, it is anybody’s race,” he said in a statement released late Thursday.
Andraé McGary, 32, a Chattanooga city councilman and former radio talk show host, emerged as the winner of the three-man Democratic primary, beating Hamilton County School Board member David Testerman and Quenston Coleman, a retired state probation and parole officer.
“Right now the fun begins,” McGary said. “Right now we have to convince a largely Republican area that we’re not laying down and playing dead.”
Republican state Senate candidate Todd Gardenhire accused his primary opponent, Greg Vital, of anonymously mailing to voters a 15-year-old request from Gardenhire’s ex-wife, asking for a protective order against him, but not telling “the rest of the story” — that a judge dismissed the entire matter nine days later.
An excerpt from the rest of Chris Carroll’s story: “The other thing missing from this [letter] was a disclaimer,” Gardenhire said Tuesday. “The disclaimer should have read, ‘This letter was authorized by the Pinocchio for State Senate Campaign, Greg Vital, chairman.'”
Both men are running in Senate District 10’s Republican primary to replace Sen. Andy Berke, a Democrat who’s declined a re-election bid in order to run for mayor of Chattanooga.
Gardenhire launched the accusations at Vital during a dramatic lunchtime meeting of the Hamilton County Republican Women’s Club at county GOP headquarters in Chattanooga. While both candidates verbally sparred, Vital never addressed whether his campaign mailed the petition.
Pressed about the mailer after the meeting, Vital initially refused to answer questions.
“You’re badgering,” he told a reporter. “I got one in the mail, too. That’s all I’m saying.”
Moments later, he threw up his hands and said, “I have no idea” when asked directly whether he or his campaign had any involvement in sending the mailer.
Gardenhire’s “Pinocchio” accusation came a week after the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported occasions in which Vital’s websites or Vital himself said he was a college graduate despite his never graduating.
Last week, an unknown number of Hamilton County homes received a handwritten envelope containing a petition for an order of protection. There was no return address.
Written June 27, 1997, by Gardenhire’s ex-wife, Kathy Gardenhire, the petition says she and their young son were “afraid for our lives” after Gardenhire “started raging,” “losing control” and “[throwing] things as hard as he can.”
“He raves through the house threatening me bodily harm,” she wrote in the petition.
But court records show that, nine days later, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern signed an order dismissing the petition, noting that Kathy Gardenhire “asked that this action be dismissed.”
“[The] Court has determined that both parties have come to an agreement and a dismissal is in the best interest of the parties,” the order reads.
That information wasn’t included in the mailer. The Gardenhires remained married until “irreconcilable differences” led to a divorce that was finalized in 2008, court records show.
As part of a rambling but readable report on the state Senate District 10 campaign, Chris Carroll says that Republican primary competitors Todd Gardenhire and Greg Vital “spar over vehicles, not bumper stickers.” During a break in the Flint Springs action, Vital touted his 16 years as president and CEO of Morning Pointe, a chain of assisted-living centers based in Ooltewah. He said he created 800 jobs after starting the company in 1996.
Then he whipped out the scarlet letter of the “1 percent” era: “He’s a Wall Street businessman,” Vital remarked of Gardenhire, who manages funds for foundations, pensions and endowments.
“I created jobs while he was moving money around for Wall Street,” Vital added.
Gardenhire scoffed and said Vital briefly worked for the brokerage firm Dean Witter, which merged with Morgan Stanley in 1997.
True, Vital said, for “two years, 25 years ago.”
Gardenhire hit back again, pointing out Vital’s “high-class BMW” at the Flint Springs luncheon.
Vital said it’s a 2005 model with 150,000 miles on it, adding that he has a Toyota Tundra himself.
“And a Ford farm truck,” he said.
After loaning himself $75,000, Vital had out-raised Gardenhire 12-to-1 by the end of March. Gardenhire counted $5,270 on hand while Vital reported $63,869 in the bank, records show.
“Who are people going to relate to?” Gardenhire wondered aloud. “Me, who’s driven a  Toyota Tundra I’ve had for a while, or somebody that drives a BMW?”
“That seems a little desperate,” Vital fired back.