Jones gets 26-vote win over Broughton in two-incumbent Sullivan BOE race

Rick Wagner • Aug 4, 2016 at 11:28 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Randall Jones of Indian Springs hung on to a Sullivan County school board seat by 26 votes Thursday night in a race with fellow incumbent Todd Broughton of Bloomingdale, according to unofficial results at www.scelect.org/.

The final count in the unofficial tally from the Sullivan County Election Commission in the nonpartisan race was Jones 894, or 50.74 percent, to Broughton’s 868, or 49.26 percent.

In uncontested county Board of Education races, newcomer Matthew Spivey of Kingsport won uncontested with 1,104 votes in District 3 with no incumbent because of reapportionment; newcomer Mark Ireson of Colonial Heights won unopposed in District 1 with 1,338 votes to replace retiring board member and Vice Chairman Jack Bales of Sullivan Gardens; and appointed incumbent Jane Thomas of the Bluff City area won a full term to her District 7 seat with 1,212 votes.

“I knew it would be close,” Jones said of the race that focused on the facilities study and Phase 1 of a school building program, which in a nutshell Broughton opposed but Jones and the rest of the board support. “He made facilities the main point.”

The two raced for the same seat because reapportionment drew them into the same district.

“I tried to keep everything above board and focus on my background and experience,” said Jones, a retired educator and administrator with more than 30 years’ experience, most of it with Bristol, Tenn., schools. “I don’t think I left any doubt on where I stand on the two high schools proposed.” If Phase 1 goes through, a new high school near Exit 63 of Interstate 81 would serve students of Sullivan North High, South High and part of Central High, with the rest of Central’s students going to East High. Also, a new middle school is proposed, likely in the Piney Flats community.

“I can hold my head high. I didn’t play dirty,” said Broughton, a mechanic for Eastman Chemical Co. “I can live with losing the way I did. I hope he can live with it (winning) the way he did.”

Jones said he prayed a lot before entering the race and knew it would focus on facilities. “I was at peace with God regardless of the outcome,” Jones said.

Broughton said he still disagrees with the characterization of votes to accept the facilities study and recommendations, which Jones said the board would have to approve or disapprove later. Broughton maintained that the plan makes no sense if the school system keeps managed choice and allows city residents to stay in the county school system without going through a lottery as long as there is space available at schools.

The facilities plan, which the board accepted but did not adopt, calls for the closure of Indian Springs and Central Heights elementary schools in District 5 in Phase 1. The other polling places were Sullivan North High School and Holston Middle School. Jones won Indian Springs 507 to 282 in unofficial results, while Broughton won North 404 to 162. Broughton won Central Heights 129 to 128, and Jones won Holston Middle 97 to 53. Both said they wanted to keep the two elementary schools open, but Jones said only if enrollments stayed high enough.

“We never voted on the sale of North (to Kingsport for a middle school) and that’s supposed to go through,” Broughton said. “I think the facilities plan is a step toward destroying the Sullivan County school system.”

In early voting, Jones won narrowly over Broughton 496 to 454, or 52.21 percent to 47.79 percent, making for a margin of 42 votes. However, Broughton narrowly won ballots cast Thurdsay, getting 414 votes, or 50.99 percent, to 398, or 49.01 percent cast for Jones.

According to financial campaign disclosures filed so far, Jones outspent Broughton. Jones had spent more than $2,500 in the latest reporting period, July 1-25, compared to $375 for Broughton during that period. That compares to Broughton spending $550 in the first reporting period, April 1-June 30, in which Jones spent $64.07 but reported an outstanding obligation of $1,295.

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