Although provisional ballots — one of the points of debate in the DesJarlais-Tracy cliffhanger — have yet to be fully counted, local candidates at least know who has won general races and who will move on to November primaries. Results are not official until they are certified by the Bradley County Election Commission, but little seems to be in doubt among local hopefuls.
For the record, several state primary nominees involving Bradley County won their races last Thursday and are apparent shoe-ins in November because they face no opposition.
This includes Tennessee Legislature incumbents like state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville representing the 9th Senatorial District, and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland representing the 24th Legislative District. They will be joined by state Rep.-elect Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, who outlasted Bradley County Commission Vice Chairman J. Adam Lowe in the Republican Primary for the 22nd Legislative District seat being vacated by the transitioning of state Rep. Eric Watson to Bradley County sheriff.
No Democratic hopefuls are listed for November in the District 22 race, so Howell is Watson’s heir apparent. He might even take the office four months early if appointed by the Bradley County Commission, the governing body of record which will have the responsibility of naming Watson’s temporary successor — at least, through December — once the new sheriff is sworn in on Sept. 1.
It seems likely — and logical — that county commissioners will appoint Howell because it’s a state government seat he has already earned by virtue of last Thursday’s primary victory and the absence of a Democratic opponent in November.
Accolades are surely in order for all local candidates, as well as for state hopefuls, who emerged as the apparent winners. Some won contested races. Others received complimentary votes from an appreciative constituency. A small number will still be subject to complimentary votes in November in their uncontested state generals.
Winners from last Thursday’s ballot have long since been announced — on the front page of this newspaper, on the airwaves and across a wide span of electronic and social media. But it’s not too late for a few observations based on election returns which traditionally constitute the voice, and the will, of the people.
Just a few of our thoughts include:
- Every elected seat in Bradley County — at least, those in which candidates must declare a political affiliation — is now held by a Republican. Some will argue the good or the bad of such domination. In Nashville, legislators call it a “super majority.” Such partisanship at the ballot comes as no surprise. Tennessee has been a “red” state for years and Bradley County’s shade of crimson (no reference intended to Alabama football) has been just as deep for just as long ... and maybe longer.
- Locally elected offices where the candidates still run as nonpartisan independents include the Cleveland City Council, the Cleveland Board of Education, the Bradley County Board of Education and the Charleston City Commission. Is this a “good” or a “bad?” Opinions differ. Our own is simply this. Partisan politics has its rightful place in a democracy where voters vote and votes decide. But we must admit, sometimes the lack of conventional “Republican versus Democrat” branding is a refreshing alternative that lends itself more to voting for the candidate and not just the party.
- As happy as we are for last Thursday’s winners, Bradley County is losing two familiar — and much-respected — faces. They are Jeff Morelock, a rare Democratic incumbent, who lost his bid for re-election to the District 3 seat on the Bradley County Commission; and J. Adam Lowe who surrendered his County Commission seat to pursue the state legislator post eventually won by Howell. Our tribute to their leadership is not about Republican and Democratic values. It is about two elected officials who have given their all for this community — regardless of political sway. We wish both well in their futures.
- Bradley County also is bidding farewell to its only Democrat in the judiciary. Incumbent Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy fell to GOP challenger Sandra Donaghy whose 22 years of practicing criminal law will benefit her in this bold new role. Reedy is to be credited for her years of exhausting service in a sometimes thankless, and frequently unnerving, job.
- Bradley County voters said to “replace” all justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court, as well as the entire slate of appellate court judges. Yet, Tennessee voters statewide voted to “retain” them. If this says anything, it further points to Bradley County’s conservative point of view.
November’s ballot will be smaller, but it will include a handful of important state races: Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives (Districts 3 and 4) and unopposed contests for state representative (Districts 22 and 24) and state senate (District 9).
We offer our best wishes to each remaining candidate.
We thank all Bradley County voters who took the time to offer their voice by marking a ballot.