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Election Report: Big night for Potter, Tester




By Dan Cullinane
Freelance Writer


Reporting live from the offices of the Johnson County Election Commission, the results are in for the August 4 primary and county elections.

First up, is the race everyone has been watching. Larry Potter has defeated Tate Davis, Eric Garland, Mark Gladden, and Scott Mast to replace outgoing county, Mayor Mike Taylor.

The candidates campaigned extensively in this closely watched race, and Potter, who is returning to the mayor’s office, has promised to tackle some of Johnson County’s most intractable issues, including business development, the growing homelessness issue, the devastating and deadly drug epidemic, and the desperate need for daycare. While he has spoken openly about his solutions to these issues in an in-depth article in The Tomahawk, he has also promised to reach out to his fellow candidates to form a Mayor’s advisory board to get even more ideas and assistance in moving Johnson County forward. It is a testimony to the better nature of Johnson County that this race, while crowded and competitive, was never contentious, and all candidates maintained a high regard for each other’s commitment to the county.

The county Sheriff’s race, on the other hand, was marked by several high-profile incidents involving candidates which were more than contentious. In the end, incumbent Eddie Tester, facing off against former sheriff Mike Reece for a second time, once again delivered a knock-out blow, winning with over 80 percent of the votes.


Other county office races were noteworthy only in how little changed. Lisa Crowder, Melissa Holloway, and Jeff Wagner, all running unopposed, retained their positions as County Trustee, Circuit Court Clerk, and Road Superintendent respectively.

County Attorney Perry Stout, also running unopposed, is the new General Sessions / Juvenile Court Judge.

Tammie Fenner defeated Eric Farrow, Starling McCloud, and Robert Swift to remain County Clerk, and Freida May Gwinn defeated Pamela Brown to retain her position as Register of Deeds.

The Johnson County School Board saw more activity, representative of changes sweeping school boards across the country.

In District One, Russell Robinson defeated incumbent Howard Carlton. In District Three, John Holloway will join incumbent Gary Matheson on the board.

The County Commissioners race was one of the more crowded and saw significant turnover with many incumbents bowing out, and new faces joining the old guard. The commission is the body most responsible for working with or thwarting the new mayor, so new faces such as Brian Taylor, Lester Dunn, Cody Osborne, Huey Long, and country music star Kody Norris will have the opportunity to change the commission’s reputation in the county from a do-nothing obstacle to progress to an engaged and energized group focused on solving problems and ushering in opportunity.

On the state level, specifically District Three, incumbent Representative Scotty Campbell ran unopposed in the Republican primary, and since the Democratic Party fielded no candidates for the House of Representatives he will be reelected in November. Rusty Crowe, who, due to redistricting, will now serve as District Three’s State Senator, was unchallenged in the primary, and, in November, will face former Washington County Democratic Party Chair Kate Craig, who also ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Republican Governor Bill Lee was also unopposed in his primary and will face Jason Martin who defeated Carnita Atwater, and J.B. Smiley in the Democratic primary. Lee, who beat his Democratic opponent in 2018 by a 21 percent margin, has a campaign war chest of over $4,000,000.00 and a solid approval rating of 56 percent so is expected to retain his office easily. While no polling data on the Democrats is available, and their combined campaign funds in July were a discouraging $71,000.00, if the Democratic Party becomes energized and works to raise Martin’s profile, not to mention funds, he could gain some traction between now and November.

The next election, on Tuesday, November 8,  is the State and Federal General Election as well as the Municipal Election for the town of Mountain City. For information on this election and voting in Johnson County, visit the Johnson County Election Commission’s website at