Four set to vie in Republican primary to replace Campbell

John Thompson • Apr 6, 2012 at 8:59 AM

ELIZABETHTON — This year’s redistricting of state legislative districts has resulted in some major changes in the August Republican primary in Carter County. In the Carter County general election, there will be contested races in three of the four school board districts.

For the past 20 years, all voters in Carter County were in the same 4th House District and the same 3rd Senate District. Now the county will be split between the 3rd and 4th House Districts and the 3rd and 4th Senate Districts.

The race that drew the most candidates in the Republican Primary is the 3rd District, where incumbent Scotty Campbell is retiring after only one term. There are four challengers in the primary but none are from Carter County.

The 3rd District takes all of Johnson County but is extremely gerrymandered in both Carter and Sullivan counties. It takes in the southeastern precincts of Sullivan, except for a dip to the north to take in portions of Bluff City and Blountville. In Carter County, it takes in the most mountainous parts of the county, including Roan Mountain, Hampton, Tiger Creek, Elk Mills and most of Gap Creek.

Three of the four candidates in the Republican primary are from Sullivan County: Timothy Hill of Blountville, Karen Greene Morrell of Bluff City and Thomas White of Blountville. The fourth candidate, Kevin Parsons, is from Mountain City in Johnson County.

There is also one candidate in the Democratic primary, Leah Kirk of Bristol, who will face the Republican nominee in November.

The 4th District consists of the remainder of Carter County plus all of Unicoi County. There is only one candidate in the Republican Primary, Thom Gray, the son of former Carter County Sessions Court Judge Richard Gray. There is no candidate on the Democratic side.

While there may be little interest in the primary, the November contest will draw statewide interest because former House Speaker Kent Williams is running as an independent for re-election to the seat. The state Republican Executive Committee removed Williams from the party after he defied party unity to become speaker with the help of Democrats. Despite the state organization’s opposition, Williams retained his popularity with local Republicans two years ago to defeat the GOP nominee, Jerome Cochran.

There will not be a contest this year in the 3rd Senatorial District, which is held by Rusty Crowe. Crowe has lost a portion of his district in Carter County to the 4th District. The boundary is mostly along the Watauga River, with the 3rd to the south and the principally Sullivan County 4th District north of the river.

The district is held by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who has no opposition in the Republican primary and faces no Democratic challenger in November.

Ramsey waited until Thursday, the last day to qualify for the election, to announce his candidacy. He said he will continue the tradition since his first run for state house in 1992 of being a relentless fighter for low taxes, less regulation and small government. A small businessman himself, he said government doesn’t create jobs, businesses create jobs. He said toward that end he has worked to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in which to own and operate a business.

He expressed great pride in the accomplishments of the state under his leadership.

“Taxes have been lowered, government has been cut, education has been reformed and a conservative judiciary has begun to supplant an activist judiciary bent on imposing a liberal agenda on Tennessee,” Ramsey said

In the August general election, there will be contested races in three of the four Carter County School Board seats up for election. Incumbents will be running in each race. The only incumbent without a challenger is Ron McAmis in the 8th District.

In the 1st District, incumbent Keith Church will fact two challengers: Brenda Byrum and Craig Davis.

In the 4th District, incumbent Daniel Holder faces a challenge from Rusty Barnett.

The race in the 6th District is between School Board Chairman Kelly Crain and Jared McKinney.

Assessor of Property Ronnie Taylor faces no opposition in his quest for a second term.

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