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Fischman, Baker to challenge Hill, Van Huss for state House seats

Gary B. Gray • Updated Aug 4, 2016 at 10:13 PM

Two Democrats have earned spots on the Nov. 8 general election ballot and will now challenge their political and ideological opposites: Republican state House incumbents Matthew Hill, 7th, and Micah Van Huss, 6th.

Democrat Nancy Fischman easily bested Michael Morgan 795 votes (90.7 percent) to 82 (9.3 percent) in a two-candidate Democratic affair to determine Hill’s opponent.

The victory gives Fischman a second shot at Hill, a five-term House representative who passed through Thursday’s primary unopposed. Hill, a familiar political figure, was first elected in 2004.

“I’m excited and I appreciate the support I’m getting,” she said.

Fischman, the Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman and Northeast Tennessee Democrat Resource Center member, lost to Hill in 2012, but landed a surprising 34.2 percent of the vote.

“I think there are a lot of issues the Legislature isn’t addressing, such as insurance, healthcare, jobs and raising the minimum wage,” she added.

The GOP incumbents’ House districts lines basically split Washington County diagonally, with Hill sharing the constituency with Van Huss. Van Huss first won his House seat in 2012, besting then-incumbent Dale Ford. He is finishing his second term.

Van Huss will be challenged in November by Democrat John Baker, who beat Murphey Johnson in that party’s primary Thursday. Baker won by a margin of 349 votes (60.6 percent) to Johnson’s 225 (39 percent).

Baker says he entered the arena this year in an effort to open dialogue among all Washington County citizens. The Pride Community Center of the Tri-Cities director has lived in Johnson City the past 14 years and owns J.B. Designs.

“I’m very excited,” Baker said. “Now it’s onward and upward. It’s time to bring representation of the people of Washington County to Nashville. It’s time for a change.”

Thursday marked the first-ever municipal election of a Johnson City Juvenile Court clerk — a contest won by Suzan Sell Mitchell. She defeated Jared Taylor in the nonpartisan race by a count of 1,800 votes (66 percent) to 925 (34 percent).

Mitchell worked 17 years as the Juvenile Court services director for Washington County and has experience as a juvenile probation officer.

“I want to thank all my supporters and my family and friends that worked in the heat for me today,” Mitchell said. “Juvenile Court is my niche in life, and I’m very excited. This is a new journey.”

Taylor retired from the Sheriff’s Office in 2014 and took a position as Boys and Girls Club of Johnson City/Washington County assistant director.

This runoff was decided at precincts within the city’s municipal limits only.

Republican Scott Buckingham proved popular again. The incumbent Washington County assessor of property garnered his third, four-year term, topping independent Stanley Duane Shell in a 4,21- vote (64 percent) to 2,405-vote (36 percent) joust. Shell has worked in the assessor’s office as a deputy assessor.

Incumbent Republican Dr. Paul Stanton will pull up a chair for his first full term in the 6th District Washington County Commission seat. He was unopposed.

Circuit Court Judge James Edwin Lauderback also regained that spot without opposition. Lauderback serves the 1st Judicial District, which covers Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties.

Washington County voters also chose nine constables — three of each of three districts. District 1 winners are all incumbents and include Republican John Phillips, and independents John Couch and Kenneth Phillips.

All remaining constables ran as independents and are incumbents. District 2 winners include Scotty Carrier, Rusty Chinouth and Chris Mills. District 3 winners include Mark Bacon, Ricky Dunn and Ricky “Gilley” Gillenwater.

Washington County drew 3,356 early and absentee votes and 7,196 total votes for the federal/state primary and county general election.

Email Gary Gray at ggray@johnsoncitypress.com. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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