By Cliff Hightower Staff Writer
Many residents in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs and Polk counties will have new representatives in the Tennessee House and Senate next year with two incumbents stepping down.
Thursday was the qualifying deadline for nonpartisan county offices and for partisan primaries in state House and Senate races.
Three Republicans had filed qualifying papers to run for the open 9th District Senate seat, election officials said. Incumbent Jeff Miller, R-Cleveland, did not seek re-election.
Gary Benefield, Dewayne Bunch and Lindsay Hathcock Jr. all filed petitions. No Democrat qualified, so the winner of the May 2 primary will take the seat.
Mr. Bunch gave up his 24th District House seat to run for Senate, leaving that position open. The district includes part of Bradley County.
Republicans Kevin D. Brooks, Greg Cain, Garry D. Moore, Hal Roe and Michael Willis turned in petitions. No Democrat qualified for the seat.
Residents in District 22, which includes Polk and part of Bradley County, will decide if Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, will get a full term. Mr. Watson won a special election last year after Chris Newton pleaded guilty to public corruption charges in the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz sting and resigned. Mr. Watson has no primary opponent and will face Democrat Casey Stokes, of Benton, on Nov. 7.
The primary challenges weren’t limited to the open seats.
District 23 includes McMinn and part of Monroe County. Incumbent Bob McKee, of Niota, faces a challenge from Mike Bell, of Riceville, in the Republican primary. No Democrat qualified.
Mr. McKee, who is seeking his eighth term, said Thursday he is prepared for the race.
"I have represented my district very well in the past and plan to continue," he said.
In the election two years ago, Mr. McKee ran without opposition. Mr. Bell said he thinks he can win the race with a strong grass-roots campaign. "I am a social and fiscal conservative," Mr. Bell said, "and I believe in smaller and moreefficient state government."
House District 25 represents Bledsoe and Cumberland counties. Incumbent Eric Swafford, R-Pikeville, has no primary opposition but faces a challenge in November from Democrat Robert Safdie, of Crossville.
In House District 3, incumbent Bill Harmon, D-Sequatchie, doesn’t have a primary challenger but faces Republican Iva Michelle Russell of Grundy County in November.
Sequatchie and Rhea counties hold some nonpartisan county contests, including county commission and county executive.
Rhea County Executive Billy Ray Patton faces challenges from Harold "Bimbo" McCawley and Ann Gabbert Bates.
Cathy Lauer, Rhea County election administrator, said all nine of county’s districts have three or more candidates running. A total of 31 people are running for county commission, she said.
"There’s two of the nine county commission incumbents who didn’t run," she said. "That will be interesting this year."
In Sequatchie, County Executive David B. Barker is unopposed, but there are 23 candidates for 12 County Commission seats, election officials said.
Early voting begins next week for the May 2 primary.
Staff writers Ron Clayton and Randall Higgins contributed to this report.
E-mail Cliff Hightower at firstname.lastname@example.org