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Ex-sheriff Harris jabs at Eldridge, Wolfe over invitation-only campaign event, plans open rally

Gary B. Gray • Aug 1, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris and Jonesborough businessman Dwayne Cochran are hosting a “No Invitation Required. Everybody Welcome” political meet-and-greet that they say is all-inclusive, unlike Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s July 25 invitation-only Republican affair.

Harris, who is challenging Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe for Tennessee’s District 3 Republican Executive Committee seat, singled out Wolfe, who drew up the guest list for the event on Eldridge’s farm at which U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Gov. Bill Halsam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey were guests.

Republican incumbents state Rep. Matthew Hill, 7th, and Rep Micah Van Huss, 6th, did not make it onto that list. Hill’s challenger, former Johnson City Commissioner Phil Carriger, and Van Huss’ opponent, Johnson City Vice Mayor Clayton Stout did attend. The latter were captured in a group shot wedged between Haslam and Eldridge.

“The farm belongs to Dan Eldridge, and he has the right to invite who he wants on it,” Harris said Thursday. “I didn’t think it was right to not to include Mr. Hill and Mr. Van Huss. Everyone is invited to our event, including Mr. Eldridge and Mr. Wolfe.

“We actually talked about having this before Mr. Eldridge decided to hold his event, but we felt a lot of people were left out that could have had an opportunity to meet all the candidates. Both Republican and independent candidates are welcome. And though they probably won’t be given a long time, any candidate who wants to say a few words can do so.”

Cochran, who owns a storage rental business, said neither he nor Harris have talked to Eldridge or Wolfe about the event.

“Politically, it’s not right,” Cochran said about some Republicans being left off Eldridge’s guest list. “I was disappointed. When you host something like that, why do you want to make that a closed-door deal? It’s like he wants to do everything his way or no way.

“I know him and Kelly Wolfe were working together. If I was doing (Eldridge’s) job, I would not stick my head out saying ‘I’m for Carriger and Stout.’ He’s trying to get them on his shirttail and drag them through.”

Eldridge declined comment on Thursday.

Any and all candidates from Washington, Unicoi and Carter counties involved in the Aug. 7 state primary and county general election or federal, state and municipal elections scheduled for Nov. 4 can attend the event. It will be held from 4-7 p.m. Saturday on property owned by the Cochran family on Main Street in Jonesborough.

The event will be marked by a large sign that reads: “No Invitation Required. Everybody Welcome.”

Music will be provided by Carter Oats, a well-known local bluegrass group from Carter County. An Elvis impersonator will be on hand and hot dogs, chips and drinks will be provided.

“I love Elvis as much as the next guy,” Wolfe said. “I hope they have a great event.”

Harris said flyers are being distributed to advertise the event. For more information, call 220-0577.

Follow Gary B. Gray on Twitter @ggrayjcpress. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp.

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