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Robert Houk

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As I See It

Can Matthew Hill make it all the way to the top?

August 28th, 2012 9:45 am by Robert Houk

Boss Hill. Could that be state Rep. Matthew Hill’s new title? The Jonesborough Republican is certainly in the driver’s seat now. If Hill wins re-election in November (when he faces a challenge from Democrat Nancy Fischman), he is expected to move up in the leadership ranks in the state House of Representatives.
It is also likely re-election will give Hill substantial control over Republican politics in Washington County. He will be the one the politician folks in this county must go to when they need something from state government.
Boss Hill would control everything from local patronage to appointments to the Washington County Election Commission.
His would be a political machine (with roots that stretch from Sullivan County) that could influence the outcome of every contest for public office on the ballot — be it local, state or federal. Boss Hill may even use his newly earned clout to get himself elected to a new office. How about county mayor? That job certainly pays more than the other office he is rumored to covet — state senator. Whatever office Hill decides, it will be just a brief stop on his way to Congress.
There are always unseen variables that could change his political future, but right now the stars seem to be lining up nicely for Hill. And he (and his political advisers) must be given credit for whatever success that comes his way. It always takes good luck, some planning and a lot of scheming for a back-bencher to move to an A-lister in Nashville.
So how did Hill do it? His first bit of good luck came when he was appointed to the GOP’s redistricting committee in the House. It was this panel that helped to draw new legislative districts based on the 2010 census numbers. Few folks seemed to notice that the final product of redistricting in Washington County found many of state Rep. Dale Ford’s strongest voting precincts divided between the 6th and 7th districts.
That’s where the scheming comes in. Word soon began circulating that Ford’s opponent in the Aug. 2 Republican Primary, Micah Van Huss, had been recruited personally by Hill to make the race. Not true, Van Huss told Press staff writer Gary B. Gray when he asked him about it a few months ago. Even so, Ford was not convinced.
Scuttlebutt suggests that Hill not only recruited Van Huss in the 6th District, but had encouraged Thomas Gray to challenge state Rep. Kent Williams, an independent, in the newly drawn 4th District that includes part of Carter County and all of Unicoi County. Of course, Hill was behind his brother, Timothy Hill, in his bid to win the GOP nomination in the 3rd District.
So far, so good. Timothy Hill was successful, as was Van Huss and Gray (who was unopposed) in their races this month. If they are all elected in November, Boss Hill expects these three to follow his lead on all votes that come before the House. That includes deciding who will be the next speaker of the House. Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, may challenge House Speaker Beth Harwell in January.
Matthew Hill would indeed prove himself to be a political boss if he uses this contest to propel himself to a top leadership post.

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

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