Incumbent Washington County Commissioner Mark Ferguson paced the field in the District 6 race Tuesday, despite a concerted effort by Town of Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe and the political action committee Washington County Citizens for Better Government, which singled out Ferguson as being “Embarrassing” in a flyer distributed throughout the county.
Ferguson garnered 1,436 votes, or just over 27 percent of all votes cast. He was followed closely by newcomer Tom Krieger with 13,74 votes, 26 percent, incumbent Joe Grandy with 1,351 votes, or more than 25 percent.
These three will advance to the will face independent James Brooks in the Aug.7 general election. The top three will gain seats on the County Commission.
Republicans first-timer Tom Foster, had 623 votes, or more than 11 percent and incumbent Gearld Sparks rounded out the field with 481 votes, or about 9 percent of the vote.
“I’ve been a commissioner for nine years,” Ferguson said. “I’ve never changed. I believe in taking a strong stance against wasteful spending.”
Ferguson ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the County Commission in 2002, when he was defeated by nine votes. He was appointed in 2005 to fill out the remainder of Joe Wilson’s term. He was then elected to full terms in 2006 and 2010.
Krieger, a retired Angus cattle rancher and East Tennessee State University Roan Scholars Leadership Program chairman and ETSU Foundation vice chairman, is seeking his first-ever public office.
Grandy, who has served as the Washington County Economic Development Council Executive Board vice chairman since its inception, is seeking his second term.
Town of Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe was the largest single contributor to Washington County Citizens for Better Government, a local political action committee that in April singled out Ferguson as being “Embarrassing” in a flyer distributed throughout the county.
Wolfe has so far contributed $5,000 to the group, the largest contributor by far.
He said the level of animosity coming from a group of commissioners, of which Ferguson was a part, was automatically opposing proposals by County Mayor Dan Eldridge.
“I’ve felt compelled for quite some time to do something,” Wolfe said at the time. “Mr. Ferguson is trying to create some sympathy for himself in light of these flyers. My sympathy is for the people in Washington County.”
The flyer also shows Ferguson gripping his chin. Beside him, the words and phrases “Finger-pointing, Yelling, Verbal fisticuffs and Commissioners restrained by sheriff’s deputy” are checked in red. “Demand more from your elected county leaders: Vote NO on Commissioner Mark Ferguson,” also is printed on the flyer.
Ferguson was not amused, calling the flyer and Wolfe’s statements “a personal, slanderous attack.” He also said he detested dirty politics and mudslinging and questioned Wolfe’s motives for being involved.
He said commissioners seeking additional information are often rebuked and labeled as “uncooperative and controversial.”
“There’s an agenda among some people in Washington County,” Ferguson said. “I attribute my win to just being honest.
It’s a sad day when a mayor of a town -- Kelly Wolfe -- is deceitful.
Contributors to the PAC include Powell Construction owner Jim Powell, who has contributed $2,500 to this point, as well as local developer Ron Gouge at $1,250; contractor Terry Orth at $1,000; and City and County Commissioner David Tomita and Shamrock owner Jack Cox at $150 each.
Sam Barnett, the group’s treasurer, said on several occasions that those involved -- about 30 at last count -- had been very transparent about what they were doing. He also said that though Ferguson had made himself the leader of the group of commissioners opposing Eldridge, the overall goal was to reduce the number of commissioners and stop commissioners from taking taxpayer-funded health insurance benefits. Washington County Commission Districts1st: Surprising newcomer Rick Storey topped the five Republican candidates. Storey bested incumbent Commission Chairman Greg Matherly and incumbent Pete Speropulous. These three will move on to the Aug. 7 county general election. Incumbent Dolye Cloyd failed to make this year’s cut, and Lee Sowers finished fifth among the five candidates. Storey, Matherly and Speropulous will square off with independent Jonathan Griffith in the general election. Three seats are available.
2nd: Incumbent George “Skip” Oldham has earned a spot on the Aug. 7 county general election. Oldham was the lone Republican candidate entered in Tuesday’s primary. He has served one term as a county commissioner, and in 1966 was elected and served one term as a magistrate on what was then the County Court. The district’s two other incumbents, Sam Humphreys and Joe Sheffield will join challenger Robbie McGuire as the independent candidates on the county general ticket in which three seats are up for grabs.
3rd: Incumbent Mitch Meredith took the top sot in this district, followed closely by Larry England and Joe Wise. Incumbent Alpha Bridger failed to make the top three. Meredith, England and Wise will face incumbent, independent Sam Phillips and independent challenger Ted Ganger in the Aug. 7 county general. Meredith ran unsuccessfully for a City Commission seat in the early 2000s and is now finishing his first term as a county commissioner. England ran unsuccessfully for the New Tazewell City Council while in Claiborne County. Wise, the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission vice chair, is making his first run for public office.
4th: Republican incumbents Lee Chase and David Tomita, as well as challenger Jesse Overbey, will move onto the Aug. 7 ballot. Tomita topped al vote getters in this race. The three automatically move on, since the top three are taken from the primary. Chase is seeking a third term. Tomita, also a Johnson City Commissioner, is seeking a second term. These candidates now face incumbent independent Phyllis Corso, as well as fellow independents Katie Baker and Keith Swink. Three commissioners will be chosen from this field.
5th: An opportunity emerged for two new faces on the County Commission when incumbents Ken Lyon and Ethan Flynn both bowed out in February. Robbie Tester led the way in this four-person Republican contest followed by Gary McAllister. These two advanced to the county general and will face the lone independent in the field, Nancy Fischman. Ron England. Jimmy Zukas failed to move on to the general election
6th: Three candidates have survived the primary and will face independent James Brooks in the Aug.7 general election. Incumbent Mark Ferguson paced the field, followed by newcomer Tom Krieger and incumbent Joe Grandy with 1,351 votes, or more than 25 percent. Republican incumbent Gearld Sparks and challenger Tom Foster rounded out the field. The top three will gain seats on the County Commission.
7th: Incumbent Mark Larkey led this race, followed by incumbent Mike Ford and challenger Bryan Davenport. Incumbent Roger Nave failed to make the cut and will not be advancing to the county general election. The top three vote-getters will join Patrick Littleton, the only independent in the field. Nave ran unsuccessfully for a County Commission seat in 2002 and 2006. He was elected in 2010 and is finishing his first term.
8th: Only two Republicans were on Tuesday’s primary ballot. Challengers Brad Baines and Matthew Morris will move on to face incumbents Steven Light and Ben Bowman and fellow independents Eddie Haren and Bill “B.J.” Robbins on the Aug. 7 county general ballot. Only two seats are available in this district. Neither Baines nor Morris have run for public office before this election.
9th: Incumbent David Shanks and challenger Todd Hensley were the only candidates entered in the May 6 Republican primary, and both will automatically move on to the Aug. 7 county general election where they will be joined on the ballot by independent Danny Edens. Shanks is running for a second term. Only two seats are up for grabs.
10th: Two candidates are qualified this year to compete for one Washington County Commission District 10 seat. Challenger Forrest Boreing was the only Republican on Tuesday’s ballot. He will face the incumbent, independent Richard Matherly in the Aug. 7 county general election for one available seat.Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Gary-B-Gray. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.