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Expecting a heated race for sheriff in Washington County

Robert Houk • Oct 22, 2017 at 12:00 AM

A few thoughts this week from a political pundit’s notebook. I’ll start with news that former Gov. Phil Bredesen is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

Bredesen was the last Democrat to win a statewide race in Tennessee. He carried all of this state’s 95 counties (with 68 percent of the vote) to win re-election in 2006.

Word that the former Nashville mayor was mulling a bid for Bob Corker’s seat in the Senate excited moderate Democrats and some Republicans alike. Yes, there are GOPers who have fond memories of Bredesen’s eight years in office. Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey joked a few years ago that Bredesen was the best Republican governor his party had seen in nearly 20 years. (The remark was a obvious dig at former Gov. Don Sundquist for pushing a state income tax.)

I’m not sure how Bredesen ( a true policy wonk) would fare in today’s cut-throat Trumpian political world. I can’t see him duking it out with the president on Twitter.

 Courthouse Shakeup

The county election next year will result in some changes at the Washington County Courthouse. The talk going around Jonesborough is Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge will not seek a third term in August. Depending what U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, decides concerning his own political career next year, Eldridge might be on a long list of Republican candidates for the 1st District seat.

Washington County Register of Deeds Ginger Jilton is expected to retire when her term ends next year. Jilton has been a consummate professional and steady figure at the courthouse for many decades.

Former Washington County Republican Party Chairman Michael Hartman, who lost a bid for county trustee in 2014, is gearing up to run for register of deeds. No doubt there will be others vying for that county office in 2018.

The most watched political contest in Washington County next year will be for sheriff. Incumbent Ed Graybeal is likely to run for a fourth full term in office.

Graybeal was unopposed in the general election when he won re-election in 2014. It was quite a different story a few months before, however, when he squeaked by challenger Craig Ford in the Republican Primary by just 13 votes. Don’t be surprised to see Ford give it another try in 2018.

Regional cooperation

There has always been talk of regional cooperation in the Tri-Cities, but local governments have not always put that in practice. Area leaders say that is not the case with the development of an aerospace park at Tri-Cities Airport. Johnson City, Bristol and Kingsport, as well as Sullivan and Washington counties have committed to help pay the debt for the project.

Such cooperation would have been unthinkable in the late 1980s when Johnson City and Kingsport went to war over the Model City’s efforts to annex Steadman Farms near the entrance to the Blountville airport. Johnson City officials said they didn’t want a “Welcome to Kingsport” sign to be the first thing visitors see when they leave the airport.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@johnsoncitypress.com.

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