In a major three-act election year whose opener reached its climax Tuesday, local residents — especially those who took the time to vote — may have blinked in surprise at a couple of results, but that’s the power of the electorate. We just never quite know what’s going to happen.
We might think we do. We might believe we have garnered just enough inside information to interpret the pulse of the community. But in the end, it all comes down to this — the ballot box.
To the 13,242 Bradley County registered voters who cast a ballot in Early Voting or on Tuesday’s conventional Election Day — regardless of who you supported in each race — thank you for your time ... all 19.95 percent of you.
Our only question now is where were the other 80.05 percent?
But that’s a conversation for another day. And there will be another day because in 2014 this is going to happen again in August and then again in November. The ballots won’t contain as many names, and many of the county general races will be unopposed. The state primaries will add some chatter and November’s state generals could influence the tilt of partisan power swings in both Nashville and Washington, D.C. — but mostly Washington.
But that’s all down the road.
And speaking of the road, more than a few Cleveland and Bradley County residents are breathing brief sighs of relief to see colorful political signs coming down from grassy medians and highway shoulders everywhere. The work of county and state mowing crews might now become a little easier, at least until the fervor of the August races — those that are opposed — begins to light up our community once again.
A unique twist to this month’s Bradley County Primaries was that several races determined ultimate winners (Republicans) because they have no Democratic opposition in August.
The biggest example came in the Bradley County Sheriff’s race where GOP rivals Jim Ruth and Eric Watson battled it out toe-to-toe. Whoever won the primary could expect to be sworn into office on Sept. 1 because the Democratic Party fielded no candidates in its primary.
The same is true in several other races — from judgeships to road superintendent to county commissioners to constables. Of course, for years Bradley County and some of its neighbors, as well as Tennessee itself, have been strongholds of Republican strength; hence, the reason so few Democrats declare their intent for the ballot.
Truth is, countywide races in August will include only five Democrats. Four are bids for Bradley County Commission seats and one is a Criminal Court judgeship for the 10th Judicial District, the latter of which will include voters from four counties — McMinn, Monroe and Polk, as well as our own.
Yet another example of Republicans duking it out in May — and making the August ballot just a formality because of no Dems on their ticket — was the race between Stephen Hatchett and Steve Crump for District Attorney General. With his decisive victory — roughly 3 to 1 districtwide — Crump will become the 10th Judicial District’s new DA, succeeding the retiring Steve Bebb.
Such domination by one political party — whether locally, statewide or nationally — is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing; however, it does run counter to the whole premise behind a two-party system. Maybe it speaks to personal values. Perhaps it’s a notion of mindset. Could be it’s just a matter of geographic heritage.
Whatever the reason, Bradley County has been blessed over recent years by many quality elected leaders — regardless of their political partisanship.
Republicans who won their contested primaries Tuesday are to be congratulated. For those who will run unopposed in August, we wish them well and we encourage them to remember this — although their elections are over, barring a seismic write-in campaign, they remain accountable to the voters.
Finally, two observations about the now completed Bradley County General elections:
n In the sheriff’s race, incumbent Ruth and challenger Watson fired endless torpedoes, many of them brutal. Their bad blood became all too apparent to local voters, and in some cases distasteful. For the good of the Sheriff’s Office, for the sake of its employees and for the betterment of Bradley County we urge them to shake hands — if they haven’t already — and to commit to a professional transition, one that keeps the safety of our hometown community on the front burner.
n Kudos to DA-elect Crump, not only for his victory but for his grace in speaking to reporters about his opponent, and to former Assistant DA Hatchett for the same. Of Hatchett, Crump told a reporter, “He is a good man ... and I look forward to remaining his friend and us working together.” Of Crump, Hatchett said to our newspaper, “The voters have spoken and Mr. Crump has a job to do. I wish him all the best.”
Politicians don’t have to see who can sink the deepest. Elections don’t have to be dirty.
But when they are, it’s the measure of a man or a woman to rise above it all and reach for the other’s hand whether in victory or defeat.