On Saturday afternoon, in front of a crowd of supporters who had gathered in the commons area of Elizabethton High School, Sheriff Chris Mathes announced his intention to begin a write-in campaign in the Aug. 5 general election to retain his position.
Mathes, the two-term incumbent sheriff, lost the Republican nomination to retired Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Dexter Lunceford by a vote of 4,767-4,699 in the May 6 primary. After Lunceford’s victory, Mathes said he had ruled out mounting a write-in campaign. But, he said, after receiving encouragement from supporters like those who gathered to hear him speak, over the past several days, he began to change his mind.
“I know some will criticize me for doing it, going back on my word, and calling me a sore loser,” Mathes said. “But your support has meant the world to me. After lots of prayer, and because of you folks who helped change my mind, I will run this write-in campaign.”
After his announcement, however, a visibly emotional Mathes offered the assemblage an apology for failing to secure the Republican nomination.
“I let you down in the primary election,” he said. “I’m sorry for letting you down.”
In losing the Republican nomination, Mathes said he understood if some Republican voters who had voted for him in the primary chose to vote within party lines in the general election. But he asked that those voters consider whether the sheriff’s office was a position that warranted party allegiance.
“I understand it’s your right to support the party, and I understand if you feel (you should) do so,” he said. “But this is a sheriff’s race; it’s much more than a party issue. It’s about electing the best candidate.”
As his focus shifts from the primary to the general election, Mathes told his supporters that he needd assistance if he is to reclaim the sheriff’s seat for four more years.
“We’re in this all together, but I need your help,” he said. “We need to make sure you go vote, we need you to call people, we need to take shut-ins (and) absentee ballots, we need to take people to the polls, we need you to make phone calls, (and) I hate to ask this, but at times, we’re going to need your financial support.”
Even with that support, however, Mathes told the crowd that his victory would not come easily. Though the write-in campaign may prove difficult, he said, he still believes his supporters in the community can lead him to victory.
“It won’t be easy to put this win together,” he said, “but we can do this.”
Those who wish to participate in Mathes’ campaign can make online inquiries via his Facebook page.
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