The deadline to qualify for the May 1 Hawkins County primary election is Feb. 15 at noon.
Among those who have picked up petitions are three current officeholders including Church Hill Mayor Dennis Deal, who is running as an independent; Church Hill Alderman Billy Kyle Housewright, who is running as a Democrat; and District 5 Commissioner Mark Linkous.
Deal previously ran for county mayor twice in the Republican primary, and this is his first attempt as an independent.
Others who picked up a county mayor petition include former mayoral candidate and Republican Kelly Markham; past state representative candidate and independent John Neubert; Republican Jim Lee, who is recently retired from the Tennessee Highway Patrol; and first-time candidates Dennis Chamberlain and David Bailey.
The only three who have qualified so far are Chamberlain, Markham and Deal, although the independents won’t be on the May 1 primary ballot and will advance to the Aug. 2 general election.
In a press release, Bailey said he and his wife look forward to spending more time with his three grandchildren in retirement.
“It has been a pleasure and an honor for me to serve as your county mayor for two successive terms in one of the prettiest and friendliest counties in Tennessee,” Bailey said. “... During my years as mayor, we have faced several challenges and our county will continue to face challenges. However, we will grow stronger as a county if we have open and honest leadership that will promote job growth and that is focused on the future of our county. As I prepare to leave this office, I strongly encourage the voters of Hawkins County to take a good strong look at what each potential candidate has to offer from the standpoint of making Hawkins County a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
So far, the races for other county offices aren’t nearly as crowded as the one for mayor.
As of Dec. 21, the only office that has two potential candidates is highway superintendent. Republican incumbent Lowell Bean has already qualified, and Kingsport engineer and Republican Joe Parrott has picked up a petition but has not yet turned it in.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, Clerk of Courts Randy Collier, Trustee Jim Shanks, County Clerk Nancy Davis and Register of Deeds Judy Kirkpatrick are so far unopposed in their respective races and all have already qualified.
All 21 County Commission seats are also up for election, and as of Dec. 21, the following have picked up candidate petitions:
District 1: Only Republican incumbent Eugene Christian has picked up, and he hasn’t yet qualified.
District 2: Republican incumbents Jeff Barrett and B.D. Cradic (also a Church Hill alderman) have picked, up as well as Republicans Keith Bruner, Mike Dixon, Tom Kern (a Church Hill alderman), and Keith Gibson. Democrat Billy Kyle Housewright, who also has a county mayor petition, also picked up a District 2 commissioner petition. Only Cradic has qualified so far.
District 3: Republican incumbents Danny Alvis and Greg Fletchher have picked up, as well as Republicans Josh Bellamy, former commissioner Charles K. Thacker and Gus Johnson. None have qualified yet.
District 4: Republicans Patrick Johnson and Andrew Dockery have picked up, but haven’t yet qualified.
District 5: Republican incumbents Mark Linkous (who also picked up a mayoral petition) and Glenda Davis have picked up, as have former Republican commissioner Charlie Freeman, Republicans Donnie R. Eidson Sr., and Christopher James Funk Sr. None have qualified yet.
District 6: Republicans Al Lamb, Larry Clonce, and Clay R. Fugate have picked up, but non have qualified.
District 7: Republican incumbents Charlie Newton, Michael Herrell and Robert “Bob” Palmer have picked up, as have Hal Trent, Thomas Laster, Jim Kite, and Donnie “Spanky” Talley. Only Palmer has qualified so far.
There’s also a constable seat up for election in each district. So far one candidate has picked up a petition for each seat including Bill Creasy in District 1 (qualified); Freddie L. Castle in District 2; Frank Vaughn in District 3; James Hammonds in District 4; Michael Thacker in District 5; Wayne Cunningham in District 6 (qualified); and Tony Robinson in District 7.