In a straw poll on both the Republican and Democratic ballots, voters will be asked to weigh in on whether or not Catoosa County Board of Education races should be partisan.
Jim Price, chair of the Catoosa County Democratic Party, said he believes Democrats will make their opinion clear.
“We hope to get a good indication to keep school board elections non-partisan,” he said. “The Republican leadership in Catoosa obviously would like to get more control over the school system. The Democrats support a strong school system and believe control should be left to the school people.”
Ricky Kittle, chair of the Catoosa Republican Party, said the straw poll will demonstrate that the bulk of local GOP members want partisan school board elections, primarily because of the large amount of taxpayer money they control.
“The majority of the Republican Party wants to know where the school board stands in relation to the national party,” he said.
During the 2004 legislative session, the hotly contested issue of partisan school board races reached a head when a bill from state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, failed after Rep. Ron Forster, R-Ringgold, refused to sign it to change the elections to partisan. Forster instead proposed a bill to allow citizens to vote in a binding referendum on the issue, a proposal that also failed when the other three local legislators refused to sign off on it.
Exclusively on the Republican ballot, GOP voters will be asked if they should seek another vote on a sole commissioner form of government in Catoosa County.
In the November 2002 election, voters banished a sole commissioner movement with 53 percent of the vote.
Catoosa has had a five-member commission since 1993.
Prior to the 2002 election, opponents argued a sole commissioner could not adequately represent all the people of the county, while supporters, led by local political action group the Concerned Citizens for Catoosa County, argued it would be less expensive and easier for one person to oversee the county.
Kittle said he is unaware of a movement to go back to a sole commissioner, but said many in the community are disappointed in the current five-member county commission.
The races receiving the most attention in the primary elections all lie on the Republican ticket.
In a race expected to come down to the wire, Republican Gene Lowery is vying for the seat of incumbent and fellow Republican Greg Grayson in the probate judge race.
“I don’t think it’s going to be tight,” Grayson said. “It won’t come down to the wire. Good Republicans will turn out and decide who the best Republican is.”
“I don’t have any idea how it will go,” Lowery said. “I think with all the work I’ve put into it, we’ll do okay. I couldn’t begin to predict.”
For the state representative, district 3 seat, newcomer T.A. Bass is attempting to unseat Forster who is in his second term.
And for Catoosa County Board of Commissioners chair, three Republicans are seeking the opportunity to challenge Democrat Pat Page, a former commissioner, in the Nov. 2 general election. Incumbent Winford Long will square off against former County Manager Ed Vickrey and former State Representative Bill Clark.
According to Catoosa County Registrar Ann Cain, as of July 1 there are 31,141 registered voters in Catoosa County.
“We’ve had a lot of people coming in,” she said. “We had 500 voters register from the start of June until the start of July.”
Cain said since she took over as registrar this year, an average of 80-100 residents register to vote each month.
The deadline for registering for the primary election was June 21, but voters have until Oct. 5 to register for the Nov. 2 general election.
She said she expects 5,000-6,000 to vote in this year’s primary election. More than 80 have already cast paper absentee ballots, which does not include the electronic absentee ballot count, she said.
Cain said during a primary election, voters must choose a Republican, Democratic or non-partisan ballot