Tim Gobble, a republican candidate for Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, speaks to members of the Times Free Press editorial board on Wednesday. Mr. Gobble addressed several issues including illegal immigration, Medicare, and Social Security.
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Sheriff Eric Watson, right, speaks Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 after Donnie Brantley was arraigned in the Bradley County Criminal Court. Also present are Lt. David Shoemaker, Det. Zech Pike and Capt. Steve Pike, from left.

A former Bradley County sheriff says he's weighing a challenge to the current office-holder in next year's county elections.

Tim Gobble said it's "too early" to commit to a run, but added, "I wouldn't rule it out at this point. I am getting quite a bit of encouragement from people in the community, a surprising amount."

Incumbent Eric Watson is a bit more than halfway through his first term after winning 67 percent of the vote in the 2014 Republican primary against incumbent Jim Ruth and facing no general election opposition.

Watson hasn't formally announced re-election plans but has held a fundraiser and has about $18,000 in his campaign war chest, financial filings show. He served five terms as House District 22 representative in the Tennessee General Assembly before leaving the post to run for sheriff.

Gobble became sheriff in 2006 after beating longtime Sheriff Dan Gilley with 70 percent of the Republican primary vote and easily sweeping a Democratic opponent. He gave up the office in an unsuccessful bid for the 3rd Congressional District in 2010 and was replaced by Ruth.

Both men have worked in public service for most of their careers. Watson started in law enforcement in 1991 and worked as a deputy in Marion and Bradley counties, where he rose to the rank of captain, and for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, his biography on the BCSO website states.

Gobble worked for the U.S. Secret Service and was elected to the Cleveland City Council in 2002. He also has served as emergency management director for Bradley County, as East Ridge city manager and interim deputy chief of the Hamilton County Jail, and he now sits on the state Parole Board.

Both also have a knack for controversy.

Gobble left the Cleveland council in a dispute over police administration; as sheriff, he filed an unsuccessful lawsuit when county commissioners turned down his budget request, and he resigned under pressure from East Ridge after controversies about hiring an unqualified friend for a position and disciplining city court clerks for mishandling a case involving his daughter, newspaper archives show.

Watson has come under fire over allegations he has used his office to help his wife, who works for a bail bonding company. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is working with a special prosecutor to probe a variety of allegations, including that Watson pulled strings to get a woman with whom he had a relationship out of jail. And the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance is investigating a complaint that Watson, in a second career as a used-car salesman, sold vehicles without a dealer's license.

Since both Watson and Gobble are Republicans, any contest between them would take place in the May 2018 primary.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at or 423-757-6416.