Note: This story was last updated at 9 a.m. May 2.
CLINTON—Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank narrowly won the Republican Party primary on Tuesday, beating Anderson County Commissioner Steve Emert by 153 votes, according to unofficial results.
Frank, a former small business operator who was first elected in August 2012, had 4,771 votes, compared to 4,618 for Emert. That was a slim margin of 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent.
Frank has served one special two-year term as mayor and one full four-year term. There was no Democratic Party candidate for mayor in the Tuesday primary, meaning Frank won’t have a challenger on the ballot in the August 2 county general election and is essentially assured of serving again.
Emert is a small business owner who has served as Anderson County Commission chair. Like a previous candidate for mayor, former Tennessee Representative Jim Hackworth, Emert had emphasized what he characterized as dysfunction, including lawsuits, in the Anderson County Courthouse under Frank. Among other pledges, he had promised to restore civility to the county government.
But that and other campaign issues weren’t enough to give Emert the win, even if it might have helped to keep the election close. Emert initially had a narrow 63-vote lead after early and absentee voting results were counted. But the lead flipped when Election Day results started coming in from across Anderson County.
It wasn’t clear how many Democrats might have crossed over to vote in the Republican primary, especially in the mayor’s race, or which candidate they might have chosen. But there had been some open discussion of Democrats crossing over to vote for Emert in the Republican primary.
There had been negative campaign literature sent by mail that attacked Emert in some cases and Frank in others. Frank called it “an avalanche of money” that poured negative information into the race against her. She said she wasn’t sure who was behind the mailers that attacked her. She said there was an “orchestrated effort by some insiders to do crossover,” where Democrats would vote in the Republican primary. The negative ads and the crossover vote seemed to contribute to the relatively small vote margin between her and Emert.
Despite the negative nature of some aspects of the campaign, though, Frank said she has done a lot of work, and that service helped her win. In candidate forums, Frank had emphasized her accomplishments while in office.
“I’ve met one on one with people and helped them solve problems,” she said. As examples, she cited her work to help veterans, get “turnout gear” for the Briceville Volunteer Fire Department, set up the county’s first animal shelter, study broadband issues, and provide water lines.
“I thank God and all of the people who helped me and supported me, and most definitely the people who voted for me,” Frank said.
In the Republican Party primary race for sheriff, Russell Barker, a Clinton Police Department detective sergeant and director of the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force, had a healthy 13 percentage point win over Lewis Ridenour, an Oak Ridge Police Department officer and former chief deputy. Barker had 4,314 votes (47.7 percent), compared to 3,150 for Ridenour (34.9 percent).
A third GOP candidate for sheriff, Mark “Hollywood” Whaley of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, trailed far behind with 1,575 votes (17.4 percent).
“I am humbled and honored to win the Republican nomination for sheriff,” Barker said. “The outcome is a lot of hard work and a group of volunteers that worked tirelessly for over a year. Additionally, our message of a commitment to service and bringing new ideas to the Sheriff’s Department resonated with the voters.”
Barker thanked Ridenour and Whaley for running a “great, clean race.”
“They are both great men who worked hard and want to make Anderson County a better place to live,” Barker said. “I am going to enjoy this moment, and I look forward to the general election in August.”
Barker will now face Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Mark Lucas in the August 2 county general election for sheriff. Lucas ran unopposed in the Democratic Party primary on Tuesday.
There is no incumbent because the current sheriff, Paul White, is retiring.
In the Republican race for circuit court clerk, former Anderson County Mayor Rex Lynch easily beat the incumbent, William Jones, who was elected in August 2014. Since February, Jones has been facing questions about sexual harassment allegations while in office. But Lynch has had to explain his past as well after entering a plea agreement and resigning as mayor seven years ago over a case involving sales tax fraud and fraud in 2011.
In April, Lynch said he has admitted his mistake and asked forgiveness from others, including his church, wife, and family.
After his election victory Tuesday, he said voters have forgiven him as well.
“We all make mistakes in life,” Lynch said. “I’ve asked forgiveness. The citizens of Anderson County gave me a second chance, and I will not disappoint them or let them down.”
Lynch had 5,600 votes (68 percent), compared to 2,639 for Jones (32 percent), according to the unofficial results.
There was no Democratic candidate for circuit court clerk on Tuesday’s primary ballot.
Lynch said the current sexual harassment allegation against Jones, which Jones has denied and called politically motivated, was the big issue in the race.
“We all are accountable for how we run our office,” Lynch said.
Lynch said his own county government experience helped him win.
He vowed to “get rid” of what he and others have characterized as a hostile work environment in the office of the circuit court clerk. He also said he will work on a community service program for indigent residents who can’t pay fines, and he wants to set up a probable cause program for clerks who would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those trained clerks could sign warrants and affidavits for police officers and deputies outside normal business hours. The clerks can’t sign them now, Lynch said.
But two residents, one a Democrat (Alden Souza) and one a Republican (Robbie Fulton), have said they will seek election as write-in candidates on the election ballot for circuit court clerk in August.
Lynch said the history of write-ins in Anderson County is not promising for those who seek election that way. One write-in who worked hard in a campaign four years ago only got 400 votes, Lynch said.
In the GOP trustee election, 911 Director Regina Copeland had a large victory over Clinton Mayor Scott Burton and former Anderson County Commissioner Scott Gillenwaters. Copeland had 4,506 votes (49.59 percent), compared to 2,861 (31.49 percent) for Burton and 1,719 (18.92 percent) for Gillenwaters.
Copeland will face Ebony Capshaw, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, in the county general election in August.
Incumbent Jeff Cole, the county clerk, had an easy win, 72.4 percent to 27.5 percent, over businesswoman Leesa Arowood. Cole had 6,665 votes, compared to 2,538 for Arowood.
Incumbent Tim Shelton, the register of deeds, had a similar 72 percent-to-28 percent victory over his challenger, Rocky Top City Manager Michael Foster. Shelton had 6,456 votes, compared to 2,479 for Foster.
There were no candidates in the Democratic primary for county clerk or register of deeds.
Anderson County Road Superintendent Gary Long, a Republican, did not have a GOP challenger in the primary election, and he also does not have a Democratic challenger in the August 2 county general election.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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