A motion filed this morning by the Hamilton County Election Commission secured Yusuf Hakeem as the next city councilman for District 9 over incumbent Peter Murphy.
After a heated debate between legal representatives of both sides regarding seven write-in ballots, a motion was filed to allow five of the seven to count. Two ballots with no written names were rejected.
Jerry Summers, secretary of the commission, was the lone dissenter. Commissioners James A. Anderson, Tommy Crangle and Ruth Braly were all in favor of the motion.
This motion gave Hakeem a 50 percent plus one vote majority of 1,031 to win.
Hakeem said he is confident that the right decision was made.
“I think it deals with common sense and the rule of law,” Hakeem said. “[The process] has been difficult because we felt we won straight out. To have a cloud put over that was difficult.”
Peter Murphy was disappointed with the results, but grateful for the support.
“The outpouring of support has been amazing,” Murphy said. “I have a lot of supporters who are more upset than I was at what happened. But it’s all good.”
Murphy did not indicate if further legal pursuits were on his mind.
“I’m going to talk with everybody who is supporting me—all the folks in District 9—and we’ll decide what we’re going to do,” Murphy said. “I’m not ready to make a snap decision.”
Stuart James is an attorney representing Peter Murphy. He spent much of the meeting arguing in favor of counting the seven write-in votes.
“I think the Election Commission took their job seriously,” James said. “It was a tough decision for them to make, but you can’t cherry-pick votes. And that’s exactly what they did. They denied voters in the 9th District their First Amendment right to protest ... that’s disappointing to me as a lawyer.”
Hakeem said that he was prepared for a legal battle had the vote gone a different way.
“We had an outline for a defense fund as needed,” he said. “We had everything ready to move forward if necessary.”
District 9 covers areas of East Chattanooga, Eastdale, Glenwood, Missionary Ridge, Highland Park and Ridgedale.