Independent candidate Parrish bows out of Carter sheriff's race, throws support to Lunceford

John Thompson • May 23, 2014 at 4:57 PM

ELIZABETHTON —The wild ride that is the 2014 Carter County Sheriff’s election just got wilder.

In an email dated Friday at 3:15 p.m., independent James Parrish announced he will no longer be a candidate for the office.

Parrish wrote in the short email: “Effective May 23d, 2014 I am stepping out of the Carter County Sheriff’s race and supporting the primary winner Mr. Dexter Lunceford. Dexter is a long-time friend and I look forward to campaigning along-side him in the General Election.

“As the defeated incumbent re-enters the race as a write-in it is my intent to avoid a split vote that does not benefit the will of the people demonstrated during the May 6th election.”

Parrish was contacted after he sent out the email, but he said he would not make further comments on his decision.

As Parrish mentioned in his email, the sheriff’s race took an unexpected turn when incumbent Sheriff Chris Mathes decided to mount a write-in campaign after losing in the Republican Primary by 69 votes. Lunceford won the primary by a vote of 4,768 votes over Mathes’ total of 4,699.

The unusual turn of events over the past two weeks will not be reflected on the ballot of the Aug. 7 election. Carter County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said the deadline to make changes on the ballot had passed.

That means Parrish will remain on the ballot as an independent candidate, even though he has announced he will not be running. Mathes’ name will not be on the ballot even though he has announced he is actively seeking re-election. Voters may only cast a vote for Mathes by using the write-in feature on the voting machines.

Mathes said the decision by Parrish won’t change the way he campaigns. “I have to keep focused and work hard to get my supporters to the polls, whether there is one or 10 running against me.”

Parrish was considered an attractive candidate for sheriff. He had retired from the Army this year, after serving as the commander of the Department of Defense Criminal Investigations Task Force. That unit conducts worldwide criminal investigations of terrorist acts committed against Americans by suspects who are not American citizens.

Earlier in his military career, Parrish served as an aide to General Ann Dunwoody when she served as deputy chief of staff for logistics. She became the first woman in the Army to reach 4-star rank.

Parrish also had an impressive resume at the local level. He joined the Carter County Sheriff’s Department in 1987. He served in both the sheriff’s department and later in the Elizabethton Police Department. He returnted to the sheriff’s department in 1996 under Sheriff John Henson, as a captain over patrol, operations and training. The following year he became Henson’s chief deputy.

Parrish appeared to be well organized in the days immediately following the May 6 Primary. Nothing was heard from the Parrish campaign during the primary contest between Lunceford and Mathes. The day after the primary, Parrish signs suddenly appeared all over the county.

That early momentum was overtaken by the publicity Mathes received as he announced he was trying to reach a decision on whether to mount a write-in campaign.


Earlier report:

ELIZABETHTON — James Parrish announced Friday afternoon that he is no longer campaigning to become the next sheriff of Carter County.

In an email, Parrish said "I am stepping out of the Carter County Sheriff's race and supporting the primary winner Mr. Dexter Lunceford. Dexter is a long-time friend and I look forward to campaigning along side him in the General Election."

Incumbent Sheriff Chris Mathes, who lost a close GOP primary to Lunceford, is running a write-in campaign for the August general election.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for more on this developing story.

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