County walks through quiet election night

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A lackluster county primary missing controversial races that can turn Carter Countians out in droves kept vote totals low in Tuesday's county primary and presidential preference primary.
   Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won the Democratic [residential primaries in Tennessee and Virginia Tuesday night. In Carter County, Kerry collected 1,199 votes and second-place finisher North Carolina Sen. John Edwards garnered 1,030 out of 2,627 votes cast in the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, according to unofficial voting totals.
   Statewide, Kerry earned 41 percent of the vote compared to 26 percent for Edwards. According to unofficial results, Kerry received 52 percent to 27 percent for Edwards and 9 percent for retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas. Tennessee had 69 pledged delegates at stake.
   President George W. Bush continued his unopposed march to the Republican nomination earning 3,724 of the 4,035 votes cast in the county's Republican presidential primary.
   After losing to Edwards in the South Carolina primary and retired Gen. Wesley Clark in Oklahoma, Kerry posted his first wins in the South. After failing to win either state, Clark announced he was dropping out of the race on Tuesday night. The former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO earned only 186 votes in Carter County.
   Clark is the fifth Democrat to drop out of the race. The four now chasing Kerry are Edwards, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton. Candidates next move to the Wisconsin primary on Feb. 17.
   Edwards told reporters during a campaign stop in Bristol last week that he did not feel Tennessee and Virginia were "must-win" states for him to remain in the Democratic race. However, after finishing a distant second to Kerry in two states that border his North Carolina home, the possibility of Kerry winning the nomination is becoming all but inevitable. Both Edwards and Clark campaigned heavily in Tennessee and Virginia hoping to derail Kerry's momentum. The four-term Massachusetts senator has won 12 or 14 primary races including the Washington state and Michigan primaries over the weekend.
   Kerry bested Edwards in Washington County by a margin of 44 percent to 39 percent of votes cast. He narrowly defeated Edwards in Sullivan County winning 2,880 votes, or 44 percent, to Edwards' total of 2,731.
   In addition to the candidates, voters also selected delegates to represent the Republican party at the Republican National Convention. In Carter County voters selected 12 at-large delegates: M.S. "Susie" Alcorn, Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe; state Sen. Ben Atchley, R-Knoxville; Jean Ann Baker; Betty Cannon; Bill Cloar; John Wayne Cropp; Darrell S. Freeman; Bill Gibbons; state Rep. Tre Hargett, R-Barlett; Tom Jensen, and former gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Congressman Van Hilleary.
   Delegates designated for the First Congressional District selected were Kay Soloman Armstrong, John S. Gaines and John Rambo.
   County voters soundly defeated a county-wide sales tax referendum that would have upped the county's sales tax rate to 9.75 percent. Sixty-seven percent of county voters cast ballots against the sales tax referendum increasing the local option sales tax from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent.
   The lone contested race in the county Republican primary saw sitting Assessor of Property Gerald Holly cruising to victory over challengers Ted Weaver and George Fortner.
   Also in Washington County, incumbent Assessor of Property Monty Treadway running unopposed won the Republican nomination picking up 3,628 complimentary votes. Treadway will take on Democratic nominee Mary Hylton in the Aug. 5 county general election.
   Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal was also uncontested in winning the GOP nomination for the county's top cop. Independent candidates Joseph F. Bush, III, of Limestone and Ernest Dean Willis of Johnson City will challenge Graybeal in the county election.
   Election officials now turn their attention to the state primary and federal election. The qualifying deadline for the state primary and county general election is April 1. The seats for all 99 members of the Tennessee House of Representatives will be up this year.