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Question is: How low can Matthew Hill go?

Robert Houk • Jul 21, 2014 at 9:46 AM

State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, claims his challenger in the Republican Primary has collected more than $30,000 from “liberal” Democrats in the 7th District. Well, say his critics, that’s still $30,000 more than Hill has collected lately from anyone in the district.

That is one of several campaign observations this week from a political pundit’s notebook. As you see, I’ve kicked things off with the race between Hill and former City Commissioner Phil Carriger.

Many think Boss Hill has really outdone himself with a political mailer linking his challenger to President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. The item also mentions that Carriger has taken “over $37,000 worth” of campaign donations from liberal Democrats, but he fails to cite those liberal Democrats by name. The names of Obama, Reid or Pelosi do not show up as donors to Carriger’s campaign on any of the financial disclosures filed with the state. Instead, we find the names of many local businesspeople who have donated to Carriger.

In fact, nearly 90 percent of Carriger’s donations come from inside the 7th District. Hill, on the other hand, has filled his campaign coffers with PAC dollars and single contributions from individuals outside his district.

Hill has made other Pavlovian attacks on Carriger, but none as brazen as his “Why Do Liberals Love Phil Carriger?” mailer. The tactic left many Republicans asking: How low could Hill still go? I’m afraid they might not like the answer to that question.

Is anyone else amazed by all the attention being paid this year to the race for Republican State Executive committeeman? I certainly can’t remember ever before seeing as many ads, campaign signs and mailers for a nonpaid partisan position.

Of course, the two candidates in this race are known to evoke strong feelings among friends and foes alike. The incumbent, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe, has been careful not to openly court controversy in the role.

His challenger, former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris, has had an interesting past few years, with a serious head injury and a number of courtroom dramas. Harris now lives in Washington County, which along with Unicoi and Carter counties, make up the district a committeeman represents on the GOP executive committee.

It’s also the makeup of the 3rd state Senate District. Well now, isn’t that a bit curious?

› Chief Justice Gary Wade of the Tennessee Supreme Court told me recently he is “optimistic” in regard to his future on the bench. Wade is confident the voters will return him and two other justices up for retention on the Aug. 7 ballot to the court.

The chief justice and his colleagues have been targeted for defeat by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who says the three aren’t friendly enough to business. Meanwhile, Wade says he gets along quite nicely with the other top Republicans of this state — Gov. Bill Haslam and state House Speaker Beth Harwell.

“Our relationship has been first-class,” Wade said. “They have demonstrated high regard for the courts.”

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@john? soncitypress.com? . Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ ? JCPressRobertHouk. Follow him at Twitter.com/houkRobert? .

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