CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Sunday, Feb 27, 2022 – Mayoral candidates are forced to answer the toughest question of the political season that they would rather have ignored.
And that was a set of queries by members of the audience at Calvary Chapel downtown at a debate involving three GOP primary rivals, Matt Hullander, Sabrena Smedley and Weston Wamp. The project is run by Adam Calabrese and Anne Lowery.
Each candidate is conservative. Each is a professing Christian. Each makes ostensible defense of free markets and American liberties. Earlier reporting ranks, on a 1-to-10 scale, Mr. Hullander as a 2, Mrs. Smedley as a 2, and Mr. Wamp has a 3.
Why such low numbers?
They appear to have negligently ignored the biggest question facing the mayor’s office next term: The bold overthrow by local and state government of constitutionally guaranteed rights and the state communicable disease law at Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-5-108 requiring a determination of the agent of contagion be made before any official is vested with police authority that is to be used one person at a time upon those sick or suspected of being contagious.
No candidate has offered him- or herself as antidote to this unprecedented abuse of the people and their rights under Jim Coppinger and Gov. Bill Lee. Mr. Wamp is ahead of the others because he explains the role of federalism and divided powers, with local decisionmaking.
Here’s the first of two questions from the Christians.
“As you know, Hamilton County mayor Jim Coppinger was very supportive of lockdown measures, business restrictions, individual restrictions and forced mask mandates during the pandemic. He was one of the few republicans in state of Tennessee to take this stand. *** Can you point to any time in 2020 or 2021 that you publicly spoke out, or fought against these measures in an effort to reinstate our citizens’ freedoms. If you were silent publicly, can you say why? If you were going to represent our county as mayor, why did you stay silent? And why should we think you would act differently than our current mayor?”
Matt Hullander would consult with others
Matt Hullander is a former business owner who now is a developer and investor in numerous local businesses.
“I wasn’t running in 2020. Hindsight is 2020. Had we known then what we know now we all may have done things differently, and I’m not going to sit here and throw Jim Coppinger under the bus. He’s been a great mayor and he’s a friend of mine. Would I have done things differently? I don’t know, but probably.
“I can tell you how I handled things at the time when I was running my business.”
Mr. Hullander compares Circuit City to Best Buy and Walgreen vs Eckerd, with Best Buy beating our circuit city.
“It’s because they were able to change and adapt, and that’s a core value that I taught my employees year after year. I did a video on Fridays, ‘Friday with Matt,’ and we would communicate our core values.
“When this happened — I’ll never forget — I was in a peer group, *** with remodelers all over the country. *** Everybody was scared and everyone was wondering, ‘What are we going to do?’ One of the company owners said, ‘I’m just going to close or two months.’ Another one said, ‘I’m going to furlough all my employees.’ One company was from Illinois and didn’t know what to do. And I remember after that Zoom call Bobbie called me and said, ‘What are we gonna do?’ And I said, ‘We’re gonna follow our core values, and we’re gonna change and adapt. We’ve got 100-plus employees and their families to worry about. We’ve got customers that we have to worry about.’ So, my team was resilient. They pivoted. Within 24 hours, we were doing virtual presentations. We moved our inside work to our outside work, and we tried our best never to slow down. We started doing front-porch estimates.”
Mr. Hullander tells about a restaurant owner who adjusted to the lockdown by service of food purchases outside and delivery.
“I was very proud of how we handled the situation, and I also think we’re fortunate to be right here in Hamilton County because we wouldn’t get to do this right here in a church if we were in California.”
Would he do the same as Mr. Coppinger?
“I wasn’t running. I hadn’t thought about running, then. But I was vocal to my circle of influence. You can ask any of my friends, and they can tell you what I thought about it. I believe the science and the media and Dr. Fauci — it’s all been politicized to the point that [applause from audience] — y’know, if I’m fortunate enough to get elected, I’ll consider what will be the best information. Government has no place in making personal decisions for my family or your family.” [Applause]
Church members have a second question: “We saw our current mayor defer his leadership to the health department, which deferred their leadership to the CDC, which proved to be a detriment to our local businesses and our schools and churches as we’ve talked about. Who will you look to for information regarding another public health crisis?” Also, have you taken money from drug companies, med PACS or hospital groups?
He says he’s taken no money from drug or hospital businesses.
“Referring to the health department, the last thing I would want to do is shut down local businesses or churches or schools especially, and I think that most people in this room agree” that meeting in person is better than meeting people on a computer screen.
“I would not defer the decision” on use of police powers. “I would make that decision. *** I would like to know their opinion,” but he would also call two doctors he knows and ‘talk to business leaders” and “I would try to make the best decision I could at the time knowing that we get our individual rights from God.” Heb. 10:25, a verse on “meeting together” and you cannot have baptism and communion online. “The government has no business with how we worship.” (Applause).
ANALYSIS — Mr. Hullander answers the question from experience as a business owner, and does not speak about the role of mayor in facilitating the purported pandemic response following state government, or resisting the panicked overthrow of law and liberty. Mr. Hullander has not kept up with the news. He still is not informed about the lawsuit against the county and Gov. Bill Lee for fraud and official misconduct, does not see the county’s role in fraud and mass irreparable harm with its early directives and his entering its role as purveyor of experimental DNA treatments to 200,000 people, and does not speak in terms of guidance of his actions as mayor by either state supreme law or statute. Personalistic approach to role in office, not concerned with TN law, possible interposition, intervention or risk reduction and harm prevention.
Sabrena Smedley would call on God for guidance
Mrs. Smedley is chairman of the county commission, and an authority in local government touting her public service experience.
“Thank you for the question. Because this is very near and dear to my heart. *** I had just purchased a fitness boutique three months before Covid hit. Two locations with 18 employees. I had to shut down. *** First of all, the order came down from President Trump. *** ”
She says her girls were “troopers” during the shutdown. She called the county mayor every single day, “We’ve got to reopen. We can’t sustain running a business if we’re not open.” She reached out to her city councilman, who sent a letter to Mayor Berke on her behalf “asking if we could reopen.”
“I will never — and you can write this down and take it to the bank — if I’m the next county mayor, I don’t think there will ever be a situation that will be identical; but I will tell you, that I will never force businesses to shut down, nor will I tell employees that they can’t go to work to provide a living for their family. I will never do that” — applause from crowd.
“You need a county mayor — you have a responsibility to take care of your most vulnerable folks, and I will do that.”
ANALYSIS Mrs. Smedley spoke out on her own behalf as a beleaguered business owner. She did not act as one in authority on the county commission. She made no effort to bring Mr. Coppinger back into the government (constitution, Tenn. Code Ann.). She does not find him lacking. Strongly worded promise to “never force businesses to shut down” based on personal preference, no citation to law barring such action. Mrs. Smedley ignores a remonstrance to Hamilton County outlining why it should instantly halt the shots program and begin restituting the harm of the shot, which harm is suppressed by most local media and by apparently all in government.
In answer to the second question regarding authority, she points out the health department head serves at “the county’s mayor’s discretion” and she wants to give Mayor Coppinger “some credit” for his service.
“Who I will look to first and foremost is God. When we have a crisis like this that we don’t know what we’re dealing with, first and foremost as a leader, responsible for 366,000 people in Hamilton County, I am going to get on my knees and first of all pray or discernment and wisdom” (applause).
Then she is going “to rely on the experts, not only the health experts” but others, and will “make an informed decision.”
She has not taken any pharma donations, but she has taken support from local doctors.
ANALYSIS To say she will consult with God is a copout. If she is mayor, she takes an oath to uphold the constitution. To the bill of rights she must resort — and to the Tennessee code, with clear protections for the people’s due process rights implied in the duties assigned to the health authority in time of epidemic. Mrs. Smedley will do exactly what Mr. Coppinger, Mr. Berke and Tim Kelly have done in mayoral office. She will be rolled over by foreign panic, and will roll over the people and their rights and property.
Weston Wamp vocal throughout vs. CV-19 response
Mr. Wamp pulls up digital media posts he made beginning in April condemning the shutdown. “I was one of the people to go aggressively after Mayor Berke” who “really was the one who was intent on shutting businesses down.” Mr. Wamp says Mayor Berke, not Mayor Coppinger, “was really intent on shutting businesses down.” Mr. Wamp says Mr. Berke was particularly intent on shutting down “Christian-owned” businesses.
“The most embarrassing moment” was Mr. Berke’s ban on parking-lot worship services — as if “the virus would jump from one car to another” — like that planned by Metro Tabernacle off Highway 153 and Rev. Steve Ball at Easter, a ban lifted at the last minute by a court order. “A federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional, and I was repeatedly on Facebook talking about what a disservice it was to our community, not to mention unconstitutional, he was threatening people who were wanting to just attend a drive-in worship service on the most important day on the Christian calendar.”
He tells of an April 21, 2020, FB video he posted complaining about the penal measures from city government and that it’s time “to open up. *** Mayor Berke embarrassed us nationally because he was trying to throw our governor and to some extent the county mayor under the bus. None of us knew then what we know now, and there is a degree of grace as we look back on what we went through is appropriate.”
Mr. Wamp says “Shelby and I are public school parents. We opt our kids out.” He wants transparency and “an off ramp to give us some idea of what’s coming” in masking and other rules. “I’m impressed we got through that. There are parts of the country where you still, against all science, mask kids. It’s probably the greatest policy blunders of my lifetime that we continue, in large parts of the country — unbelievable: We mask little kids who are of virtually no risk of the virus.”
He says in “tweet after tweet” he cited tragic consequences of masking students and closing schools. When the “media sensationalizes the risk the virus poses to children, parents get scared. This is what we’ve all been through.”
He says politicians couldn’t distinguish between “what the experts were saying and the responsibility leaders have to decipher and process that information and make decisions in the best interest of the people who they represent and serve. So, I was very very outspoken on these issues, not because I’m an expert in viruses. But I’m a parent. I was aggravated. I was disappointed. I was worried about my own kids’ ability to learn in an environment where virtue signaling — and ‘put masks on kids.’ I wasn’t a candidate for office in 2020 and 2021,” but Mr. Wamp says he felt that “as a community leader” he had a duty to speak. Mr. Wamp wins a round of applause.
Mr. Wamp has not taken any pharmaceutical money.
ANALYSIS Mr. Wamp rates a 3 in a 1-to-10 scale for a more articulate and well-read response to the questions about government overthrow and “emergency” response. He is publicly vocal in opposing the lockdown of 2020 and 2021, active on FB and Twitter. But he is no closer than Mr. Hullander and Mrs. Smedley to determining no legal authority exists for any of the oppressive actions he describes if there exists no lawful and nonfraudulent exigency, warrant or necessity giving legal sanction to biosecurity administrative government within the county. His answer is not good enough to get him to a 4 in the 1-to-10 scale, which measurement is of willingness to submit to republican and constitutional government, with its severe limits on government actions.