Hill, Van Huss reclaim House seats

Gary B. Gray • Updated Nov 8, 2016 at 11:54 PM

Washington County’s established incumbent conservatives — state Reps. Matthew Hill, R-7th, and Micah Van Huss, R-6th — easily ran the table on their Democratic opponents Tuesday.

Hill, a Jonesborough resident, won a seventh term in the Tennessee General Assembly, topping Democratic challenger Nancy Fischman, receiving 14,360 votes (67.64 percent) to Fischman’s 6,833 (32.19 percent).

Van Huss, from Sulphur Springs, garnered a third term in Nashville, besting Democrat John Baker. Van Huss finished with 18,185 votes (72.58 percent) to Baker’s 6,798 votes (27.13 percent).

The two Republicans share constituents in Washington County, with Hill’s 7th District covering the county’s southwestern portion and Van Huss, the county’s northwestern section. Both share a split of Johnson City’s municipal constituency.

Neither Hill nor Van Huss were available for comment following several phone calls to both candidates.

Hill as first elected to the House in 2004. He ran unopposed in this year’s August Republican primary. He has said he wants to continue to work with both the city and county to expand the retail tax base and recruit new jobs, saying huge strides were made this year when funding was secured for improvements to the Boones Creek exit/interchange.

During last year’s session, Hill sponsored and passed a handful of bills. One implemented a 48-hour waiting period on procuring an abortion and established requirements for informed consent and a provision for medical emergencies.

He also introduced legislation which now prohibits state or local government entities, except for courts, from subpoenaing a clergy member’s sermon for a civil administrative action.

He is a member of the House Finance Ways & Means, Health and House Rules committees. He also serves on the House Health Subcommittee.

Fischman, a Johnson City resident, overwhelmingly defeated Michael Morgan in a two-candidate August Democratic primary this year to determine Hill’s opponent.

“I feel really good about the support I got, though I was disappointed that we didn’t get more votes,” Fischman said. “I will have to wait and see if I’m going to take another shot at it.”

The Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman and Northeast Tennessee Democrat Resource Center member, lost to Hill in 2012, but landed a surprising 34.2 percent of the vote.

Van Huss was first elected in 2012. He defeated Johnson City Mayor Clayton Stout in the 2014 Republican primary and was unopposed in the general election.

Van Huss has said government transparency, repealing the professional privilege tax and removing Tennessee’s firearm background check are among his top priorities.

He has played a major role in annexation and de-annexation laws that have changed the rules in Washington County to give rural landowners more say in Johnson City annexations.

In another show of support for county residents — specifically Gray residents — Van Huss announced plans to introduce legislation to place additional responsibility on clinics providing methadone and allow more county participation during municipal zonings and rezonings.

He did this the day before the Johnson City Commission voted to rezone property in Gray for a clinic.

His service in the Marine Corps included three deployments to Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

Baker beat Murphey Johnson in this year’s Democratic primary, winning by a margin of 349 votes to Johnson’s 225.

He said he entered the arena this year in an effort to open dialogue among all Washington County citizens. The Pride Community Center of the Tri-Cities director has lived in Johnson City the past 14 years and owns J.B. Designs.

“This happens again in two years, and it’s very important to get the message out that we are not being inclusive,” Baker said. “I do intend to run again.”

Baker’s platform included a push to do away with automatic and assault weapons, and the enforcement of responsible and sensible gun ownership. He also called for single-payer insurance plan that would cover all Tennesseans.

Email Gary Gray at [email protected]. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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