Circuit Court Clerk candidate Johnny Blankenship, far left, and others greeted voters for early voting Friday in Carter County. (John Thompson/Johnson City Press)
Although there were persistent rain showers throughout the day, campaign workers decked out in their candidates’ official colors added a lot of color to the gray day. The workers braved the rain to talk about their candidate as voters parked and walked into the courtroom. The workers were careful to observe the 100-foot boundary which marked the limit of campaigning before entering voter territory.
The campaign workers had plenty of people to talk to as there were lots of voters on the first day they could vote.
“They have been lined up down the hall the entire day,” Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said of the voter turnout. She said the line was a result of the number of voters showing up to vote, not the fact that there are four write-in campaigns going on that might take longer to vote.
“We timed it and the average voter is spending five minutes to vote,” Harris said.
“We always have a few things go wrong on the first day, but things have really gone smoothly (knock on wood),” Harris said.
The write-in voting has been going smoothly, according to Election Commission employee Janet Brumit. “We have had a few people ask for help (in setting the voting machine for a write-in vote) but it has not been a lot.”
Harris said she expects the voter enthusiasm to increase next week. “Voters who have voted tell their friends, who decide they need to come to vote, so it grows,” Harris said.
The enthusiasm was already evident Thursday evening when a large crowd attended a candidate forum at the Elizabethton High School gymnasium. The crowd filled up one side of the stands.
The forum was sponsored by the Carter County Compass, an online newspaper. Thom Gray served as moderator.
Gray said the were many candidates for County Commission and other county offices in attendance. He said if all the candidates were allowed to speak 5 minutes, the meeting would last until 10:30. Instead of allowing them to speak, he encouraged the audience to speak with these candidates after the main speakers were finished.
The forum offered district attorney general candidates Tony Clark and Dan Smith to have their second faceoff in three days. Another faceoff was between Republican primary candidates for the 3rd House District, Kevin Parson and Timothy Hill.
Gray had hoped to have faceoffs for the other major races, but several candidates did not agree to the debate. This included Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey; Republican nominee for sheriff Dexter Lunceford; and candidate John Holsclaw Jr. in the 4th House District. Their opponents, independent mayoral candidate Kent Williams, Sheriff Chris Mathes and 4th District candidate Judy Veeneman did attend.
The enthusiasm should continue today, as early voting will continue at the courthouse from 9 a.m. until noon.