Republicans in Carter face no Democrats, but still have challengers

John Thompson • Updated Jul 10, 2018 at 7:29 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Early voting for the Aug. 2 Carter County general election and state primary elections will begin Friday, July 13, and continue through Saturday, July 28.

Early voting will be held at the Carter County Election Commission office at 116 Holston Ave. The polls will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

There are no Democrats running in any of the offices being contested in the county general election, but there are several Republican nominees facing challenges. Most of the challenges are coming from independent candidates, but here are also write-in campaigns, including the headliner race for county mayor.

Carter County may be a one-party Republican stronghold, with Democrats having virtually no chance in county races, but that doesn’t mean Republicans have a guaranteed election after winning their party’s nomination in the primary. A lack of Democratic strength may help independent candidates because they are not seen as a threat to Republican hegemony.

The county has also had a tradition of write-in campaigns by Republican candidates who suffered defeat in the Republican primary and continued campaigning against the Republican nominee That tradition is buoyed by the fact a write-in campaign against a Republican nominee has occasionally been successful, such as in 1990 when Paul Peters mounted a successful write-in campaign against Republican nominee and incumbent Sheriff Bill Crumley.

One of the headline races in this year’s general election is the write-in candidacy of incumbent mayor Leon Humphrey. The two-term mayor was defeated in the May 1 Republican primary by Carter County School Board Chairman Rusty Barnett. Barnett had 3,679 votes to 2,955 votes for Humphrey. County Commissioner Danny Ward was third with 2,236 votes and Elizabethton Electric Department employee Larry Shell was fourth with 615 votes.

Humphrey mounted his write-in campaign after he said numerous voters encouraged him to run again. Barnett, who serves as deputy fire chief for Elizabethton, has no opponents listed on the ballot.

Another headliner on the ballot is the sheriff’s race. Dexter Lunceford has served as sheriff for one term. He won the Republican nomination for a second term and now faces opposition from independent Steve Stevenson, who is a former deputy sheriff.

Carter County Trustee Randal Lewis also faces opposition. He won the Republican primary and faces a challenge from independent Walter France Andrews Jr.

The other Carter County Courthouse officeholders face no opposition after winning Republican nominations in May. They are: Mary Gouge for Carter County clerk; Johnny Blankenship for second term as Circuit Court clerk; Roger Colbaugh as highway superintendent; and Jarrod Ellis as register of deeds.

Several Republican nominees for seats on the Carter County Commission also face opposition from independents.

Nine of the 24 seats appear to be already decided because the candidates face no opposition in the General Election. These include the candidates from the 1st, 4th, and 9th commission districts. Those facing no challenges include incumbents Robert Acuff and and Willie Campbell, joined by newcomer Mark Blevins from the 1st District. Those facing no opposition from the 4th District include incumbent Isaiah Grindstaff, former commissioner Jerry Proffitt and newcomer Austin Jaynes. Those facing no opposition in the 7th District include two independents: Sonja Culler and Ray Lyons. They will be joined by Republican newcomer Aaron Frazier.

In the 2nd District, independent James Boone is opposing Republican incumbents Nancy Brown and Mike Hill, along with Republican newcomer Patty Woodby.

In the 3rd District, independent incumbent Charles Von Cannon is opposing Republican incumbents Brad Johnson and Ronnie Trivett and Republican newcomer Phillip Brumit.

In the 5th District, two independents, Kevin Arnold and Edward Jordan, are opposing Republican incumbent Ross Garland and Republican newcomers Ginger Holdren and Layla Ward.

In the 6th District, independent incumbent John Lewis is challenging Republican incumbent Randall Jenkins and Republican newcomers Gary Bailey and Travis Hill.

In the 8th District, independent incumbent Kelly Collins is challenging Republican incumbent Cody McQueen and Republican newcomers Robin McKamey and Rick Richardson.

All of the races in the school board elections are nonpartisan and the four-year terms in each election are staggered, so that four districts are decided this year and the remaining four districts will be decided in two years. One of the four races this year is uncontested. That is the 5h District, where incumbent Tony Garland is unopposed. In the 2nd District, incumbent LaDonna Boone is opposed by Darrell Turbyfill. In the 3rd District incumbent David Buck is opposed by Ryan Bitner. In the 7th District, newly appointed board member Creole Miller faces a challenge from Josh Hubbard.

There is also one local incumbent being challenged in the state primary election. Incumbent John B. Holsclaw Jr. faces Tim Lingerfelt in the contest for the Tennessee House of Representative seat from the 4th District. Sen. Rusty Crowe and Rep. Timothy Hill face no opposition in their races.

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