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Godsey seeking return to Sullivan County government

J. H. Osborne • Updated Jan 29, 2018 at 12:17 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Former Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey has thrown his hat in the ring as a potential GOP candidate for Sullivan County Clerk in the party’s upcoming party primary. And former Kingsport Alderman Dave Clark has publicly, if not formally, pulled his hat back out of the pool of would-be challengers to current County Mayor Richard Venable.

Godsey picked up a petition for the county clerk’s race on Friday, according to public information on file with the Sullivan County Election Office. In doing so he joined what was, as of close of business Friday, a list of six would-be successors to the office being vacated by County Clerk Jeanie Gammon. Gammon is not seeking another four-year term to the $94,719 per year job. So far, including Godsey, five people have picked up to run in the Republican Primary in May,but only one has filed: County Commissioner and Sullivan County Republican Party Chairman Cheryl Russell. Both Godsey and Russell are from the Bristol end of the county. Other who have picked up petitions for the clerk’s race as Republicans include: Teresa L. Jacobs; Gammon’s daughter Chelsea Gammon Ketron; and County Commissioner Mark A. Vance. A lone Democrat, Jane Davis, has filed to seek the party’s nomination in the Democratic Primary in May.

In the mayor’s race, Clark sent a mass email out last week and also posted on his Facebook profile announcing he has decided not to seek the GOP nomination in the party’s primary. As of Friday, Clark remained on the Election Commission’s roster as having an outstanding petition. There’s a formal process a would-be candidate must go through to be removed: return the petition (but not file it) and sign a form stating they wish to be removed from the list of potential candidates. As long as he hasn’t taken that step, Clark could change his mind again and file before the Feb. 15 (noon) deadline. Venable filed Dec. 1 and later told the Times News he is definitely running for reelection for another four-year term. The jobs pays about $116,500 per year, plus a monthly vehicle allowance. Venable, who had served as county mayor but didn’t seek reelection in 2006, returned four years ago to oust Godsey during the GOP primary. The only other person who has picked up a petition in the race for mayor is Gerald Sensabaugh Jr., who picked up to run as an Independent. As such, he faces the same Feb. 14 filing deadline as party hopefuls, but if he does file, he won’t have to go through a primary in May. Candidates who file to run as Independents go straight to the August General Election ballot.  

Under state law, Nov. 17 was the first day would-be candidates for offices on the 2018 ballot to pick up paperwork at the Sullivan County Election Commission. Picking up means they were issued a petition to qualify. To finish the process, they have to get at least 25 signatures from registered voters and file the petition with the election office. If they file by the deadline and have enough valid signatures (those will be verified by election office staff), candidates will appear on the ballot for party primaries in May.

As of this election, both parties will hold primaries for all the major offices, including the Sullivan County Commission. For the 24 commission seats, this marks the first time the Democrats have held primaries. The Republican Party first made commission seat races partisan several years ago.

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