Belgeri out, Murray in as Sullivan highway commissioner, Anderson wins GOP nomination in sheriff's race

J. H. Osborne • May 1, 2018 at 11:27 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — There’ll be a lot of change coming to Sullivan County government this September, based on unofficial election results from party primaries on Tuesday. A major upset was completed in the Republican primary, as challenger Scott Murray unseated incumbent Highway Commissioner Jim Belgeri.

Belgeri was seeking a second four-year term. Voters handed Murray, a 37-year employee of the Sullivan County Highway Department, a significant margin of victory — nearly 59 percent of the vote, compared to about 41.2 percent for Belgeri.

That’s according to unofficial results posted by the Sullivan County Election Commission after polls closed and votes were tallied Tuesday evening, which showed only 14,582 of 92,827 eligible registered voters cast ballots. Of the 14,582 who voted, only 12,908 voted in the race for highway commissioner: 7,593 voted for Murray and 5,315 voted for Belgeri.

In another closely watched race, five-term Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson bested two challengers — Matt Austin and Joe Earles — to win the GOP nomination to seek re-election in the county general election, where he will face Independent Jeff Cassidy.

Anderson garnered 50.4 percent of the votes in the three-way race in the Republican primary. Austin received 29.18 percent and Earles received 20.42 percent. Anderson’s lead began as soon as early voting totals were posted shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. and continued as precinct numbers came in over the next hour and a half.

As Anderson’s supporters gathered to watch the results come in, and with a few precincts not yet reporting but nearly 90 percent of the votes reported, Anderson’s Chief Deputy Lisa Christian said she had just received a text message from Earles. Christian said the text said, “Tell the sheriff he has my full support.”

“I’m very excited,” Anderson said. “We’ll have time for some rest, then right be back on the campaign trail for August. I think people came out and gave me ‘A’s on my report card and said they approve of what we’ve been doing. My whole department works hard, and we’re going to keep on and work even harder to keep the public’s approval. We’re always trying to add new programs ... like our church security programs that have done really well. We’ve already done 51 of those. So I think they like what we’re doing.”

Anderson said he will campaign just as hard to win the county general election, when he’ll face Cassidy, as he has for this primary and all his past campaigns.

“I’m not resting on my laurels. I do know about campaigns and every campaign you have to work. I’ve been sheriff for 20 years, and every campaign I’ve worked as hard as I could work. No matter if I have five opponents or one opponent, I work just as hard and that is going to continue through August.”

The county general election is August 2.



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