Independent incumbent Kent Williams overcame a large deficit in Unicoi County by sweeping every precinct in Carter County to claim a fourth term as the 4th District representative to the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Williams defeated Republican candidate Thom Gray by a vote of 9,110 to 6,334 in unofficial results in Carter County.
“That was the largest margin we have ever had in Carter County,” Williams said.
It was done without the support of some of his traditional strong areas such as Hampton and Tiger Creek, which were lost to the 3rd District in the latest redistricting.
“I am extremely proud,” Williams said of his results in Carter County. ‘
Williams complemented Gray on the race he ran, especially in Unicoi County. “It was a good race; he worked hard,” Williams said. Williams did say he was upset that Gray had not called to concede. He said his prior opponent, Jerome Cochran, always showed class in making those concessions.
He will begin building his base in Unicoi County now that he has won another term. He said he plans to meet with local leaders and begin pushing Unicoi projects in the House.
That includes a Community Development Block Grant to provide water to Rocky Fork, the state’s newest state park, and to ensure the new overpass of the railroad tracks is completed. Of course, the proposed fish hatchery in Elizabethton is also at the top of his list.
Williams has represented Carter County in the General Assembly for the past six years. This was the first election his main opposition had been anyone other than Cochran, who formerly held the seat, and it was the first time he ever had to run outside the limits of Carter County.
Williams began his career by unseating Cochran in the Republican Primary in 2006.
Williams career took a dramatic turn at the start of his second two-year term in 2009. He joined with 49 Democrats to vote for himself for speaker of the House, defeating fellow Upper East Tennessean Jason Mumpower.
After that move, the state Republican Party kicked Williams out of the party. He has since referred to himself as a Carter County Republican.
Although he has had the support of local Republican Executive Committee members, down-state Republican Executive Committee members voted to remove him from the state party in 2009 in response to his election to the House of Representatives speakership with the support of the Democratic Party.
In a letter written on March 13, Chris Devaney, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party told election administrators in Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties that the executive committee has not voted since then to restore Williams’ status in the party.
Gray, a son of former Carter County General Sessions Judge Richard Gray, is an attorney who owns and operates his own law practice. Gray described himself as a strict constitutionalist and firm believer in the power of the people over the power of the government.