The winner of Tuesday’s Republican Primary for trustee in Washington County ran one of the most frugal and surprisingly successful campaigns ever waged for a local office. Monty Treadway spent just $1,100 to beat Michael Hartman in a race that many had predicted the latter would win.
They were wrong. You should never count out a country boy’s ingenuity.
Treadway, who served nine years as assessor of property in Washington County before retiring in 2009, had intended to spend less than $1,000 on the campaign. But alas, things are much more expensive than they were when he ran his last political race.
“I tried to be as conservative as I could be,” said Treadway, who also served as his campaign’s treasurer.
Treadway economized by repurposing items left over from his races for assessor of property. He used Sharpies to mark through “assessor” on his matchbooks and purchased stickers that read “trustee” to cover “assessor” on his campaign signs.
He also bought a few campaign ads in the Johnson City Press and the Jonesborough Herald & Tribune. That was the extent of his campaign expenses.
His thriftiness paid off in a big way. Treadway received 55 percent of the vote in the primary. That’s 6,125 votes to Hartman’s 4,944.
Treadway said he really wasn’t sure he could win the nomination. He entered the race late after the incumbent, Jack Daniels, pulled out of contention just 28 minutes before the deadline to withdraw. Daniels’ decision forced the County Election Commission to reopen the qualifying deadline for trustee.
It was Treadway’s wife and co-campaign strategist, Connie Sinks (the former county administrator of elections), who alerted this newspaper to the Anti-Skullduggery Act of 1991, which was passed to prevent incumbents from trying to affect the outcome of races by withdrawing at the very last minute. With the incumbent out, Treadway — who has spent the past five years working on his farm — decided it was time for him to get back into public service.
He knew it might be a longshot because many of his former supporters and top GOP leaders had already committed to Hartman, who is the county’s party chairman.
“I was just trying to keep it close, but I got lucky,” he said.
Treadway made the rounds at civic clubs, community pancake breakfasts and church spaghetti suppers. He talked to people and told them what he would do if he was elected trustee. But Treadway said he was also careful not to make any promises that he could not keep.
The strategy worked. He was also blessed that he still had favorable name recognition among the voters. It also didn’t hurt Treadway when his opponent was endorsed by Daniels.
Many voters resented what they saw as the retiring incumbent trying to anoint his successor. Treadway had seen this happen before in Washington County and always with the same results.
“People don’t like it when you try to hand-pick your successor,” he told me.
No, they don’t.
Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JCPressRobertHouk. Follow him at Twitter.com/houkRobert.