This week, a few notes from a political pundit’s notebook. I’ll begin with the Republican Primary for Washington County sheriff. I suggested a few months ago that this contest could get heated, and judging from some of the ads and claims coming from the challenger, it has.
One print ad from Craig Ford takes on incumbent Ed Graybeal for what he portrays as a lack of religious instruction at the Washington County Detention Center.
“The current sheriff expelled the Gideons from the Washington County Jail and fired the chaplain,” Ford says in his latest ad. “If elected, I will bring them back and strongly support the prison ministries inmates so desperately need.”
The casual reader might take that statement to mean there are no religious services available to inmates at the jail. That, however, is not the case. Raoul Morin and John Haynes, cofounders of Exit 611 Ministries, say their organization has been providing church services to Washington County inmates for the past five years.
In a letter to the Press signed by Morin, Haynes and others associated with the ministry, they write that their organization provides weekly chapel services, as well as “provide Bibles, serve Communion and are available for crisis intervention for inmates when needed.”
The ministry also provides services to inmates when released from jail “in order prevent and lower recidivism rates.” Exit 611 Ministries include parishioners from Christ Fellowship and First Baptist churches in Kingsport and Central Christian Church in Jonesborough.
n I noted in a column back in December that the Aug. 7 Republican Primary matchup between state Rep. Matthew “Boss” Hill, R-Jonesborough, and former Johnson City Commissioner Phil Carriger could become the most expensive campaign for a seat in the state General Assembly ever waged in our region. Recent campaign finance disclosures certainly seem to indicate that might happen. Carriger, with $77,219 in his campaign coffers, has raised the most money thus far. Hill, who can get back to fundraising now that the General Assembly has adjourned, has $53,426 in the bank.
Those totals are the most recorded this year for a state primary battle involving an incumbent.
n In other news from the world of the Hill political dynasty, Kenneth Hill, the father of the Boss and state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, has not been re-appointed to the Tennessee Regulatory Agency. It’s just as well, since the job isn’t what it used to be.
In 2012, Gov. Bill Haslam passed a bill that stripped Papa Boss of his full-time paid ($152,400 annually, plus benefits) position on that board and made him and other members of the TRA part-time directors earning $36,000 a year.
It wasn’t long after that move that Boss Hill and his brother, Timothy, began to oppose a number of the governor’s top legislative priorities relating to Common Core, school vouchers and other education reforms. A coincidence? I don’t think so.
Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached
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