Storylines swirl around Carter Co. General Election

John Thompson • Jul 16, 2014 at 1:46 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Because Carter County is historically one of the most strongly Republican counties in the nation, the biggest political contests are usually in the Republican Primary, but this year, there are several hot races in the Aug. 7 General Election.

One race that has been heating up lately is the contest for county mayor. Republican nominee and incumbent Leon Humphrey is facing a stiff challenge from Rep. Kent Williams, who is stepping down from his 4th District House seat after eight years in Nashville.

The race got hotter last week when signs started appearing around the county’s four high schools, claiming Humphrey has proposed closing them for a consolidated high school. Humphrey said that is not an issue for the mayor’s race because school matters are reserved for the school board. Humphrey said he has not made any decision on building new schools or closing old ones and will not do so until a professional study is done to study the needs of the county over the long term. Williams said a mayor is a leader and should state his position. He said he is favor of the four community high schools.

One unusual aspect of the election is the number of write-in campaigns going on. There are three county-wide write-in campaigns and another write-in for constable in the 3rd District.

The write-in campaigns make the ballot an unreliable indicator of what is going on in a few races. The biggest example is the sheriff’s race. The ballot indicates there is a contest between Republican nominee Dexter Lunceford and retired Army officer and former Carter County Chief Deputy James Parrish. But the ballot does not reflect the reality that independent candidate Parrish withdrew from the race too late for his name to be removed from the ballot. Lunceford is being challenged in a write-in campaign by incumbent Sheriff Chris Mathes, the man Lunceford beat by 69 votes in the May Primary. That means Lunceford faces no challenge from the man who is listed as his opponent on the ballot, but does face a contest from a man whose name is not on the ballot.

In the race for Circuit Court clerk, the ballot shows Republican nominee Johnny Blankenship facing opposition from independent John Buddy Street. Street is employed as a millwright and this is his second attempt to win the office. Blankenship is a long-time employee of the sheriff’s department and the Circuit Court clerk’s office. The two men are challenged by write-in candidate Donna McKinney, another employee of the Circuit Court clerk’s office who lost to Blankenship in the May Primary.

The ballot shows Republican nominee Roger Colbaugh has no opposition for superintendent, but in reality he is facing a write-in campaign from Jason Shell, who finished second in the May Primary. Colbaugh is a retired Tennessee Department of Transportation regional superintendent with experience in design, construction and maintenance of both highways and roads. For the past eight years Shell has been the proprietor of Sidekick Excavation, which builds subdivisions, including construction of roads.

The rest of the county races are in line with what the ballot indicates.

There is a race for Sessions Court judge between Republican nominee Keith Bowers Jr. and independent candidate Misty Buck. Bowers serves as attorney for Carter County while Buck has a private law practice and concentrates on work in Sessions Court.

The county office holders, County Clerk Mary Gouge, Register of Deeds Edrie “Jody” Bristol and Trustee Randal Lewis face no opposition.

In the County Commission races, nine of the 24 candidates face no opposition. They are all Republican nominees and include Willie L. Campbell, Buford Peters and Jerry Proffitt in the 1st District; Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester and Danny Ray Ward in the 4th District and Robert Carroll, Robert Gobble and Cody McQueen in the 8th District.

In the 2nd District, Republican nominees Nancy Brown, Mike Hill and Al Meehan face opposition from independents John Bland and Pam Braswell for three seats

In the 3rd District, Republican nominees Beth Depew, Billy Peters and Ronnie Trivett face opposition from independents Bobby Tester, Charles Von Cannon and Howell Woods for three seats.

In the 5th District, Republican nominees Ross Garland, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz and Timonty Holdren are challenged by independent Vince “Nino” Hawkins for three seats.

In the 6th District, Republican nominees Gary Wayne Bailey, Randall Jenkins and Larry Doc Miller face opposition from independent candidates Eugene Edney and John Lewis for three seats.

The most crowded field is in the 7th District, where Republican nominees Richard Chase Burleson, Scott Sams and Scott Simerly face independent candidates Bobby Blevins, Sonja Culler, Lee Hubbard and Ray Lyons.

Three of the four races for the County School Board are unopposed. They include incumbent David Buck in the 3rd District, and newcomers Tony Garland in the 5th District and Steven Hyder in the 7th District. There is a three-way race in the 1st District between incumbent Don Julian and challengers Lee Benfield and LaDonna Boone.

Twelve of the 16 constable candidates are unopposed. They are Larry Perry and Landon Pritchard in the 1st District; Barney Brown and Leonard Johnson in the 2nd District; Tim Lyons and Harvey Schaffer in the 4th District; Mark Carrier and Larry Presnell in the 5th District; John Henson and Bobby Trivette in the 6th District; and Seth Babb and Mark Watson in the 7th District. The ballot shows no opposition in the 3rd District, where James Bowers and Scott Whaley are running for the two positions. But they face a write-in challenge from Jerry Miller. The most crowded field is in the 8th District, where Republican nominees Robert Carroll and Brian Keener face independents Steven Blevins and Ryan Presnell.

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