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Primary, general elections have different purposes

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Some voters who have spoken with the Times-Gazette are unclear about the difference between the primary and general elections which will both take place on the same day in August. Here is a brief explanation:

In the general election, you are helping to make the final decision about who will take office. In the primary election, you are helping to choose your party's nominee to run in the November general election for state and federal offices.

Local offices

In this case, a general election for local offices will be held on the same day as a primary election for state and federal offices. The general election, in which all voters will participate, will select county offices, including county mayor, sheriff, circuit court clerk, trustee, county clerk, register of deeds, county commission seats and some school board and road board seats. The Town of Bell Buckle will also have a general election for mayor and for two alderman seats.

For county-wide offices such as county mayor and sheriff, there will be only one candidate on the ballot for each office. That's because all of the people who chose to run this year ran as Democrats. No one signed up to run as a Republican or independent for any county-wide office this year. The Democratic candidates ran against each other in a competitive primary election in May, and now there's one candidate -- the Democratic nominee -- for each office on the general election ballot.

Most of the candidates for county commission, school board and road board did not run in a primary election; they simply registered as independent candidates for the general election. There is one county commission candidate who ran in the Republican primary in May and is therefore running in the general election as a Republican nominee.

State, federal offices

At the same time as the general election, there will be party primaries for state and federal offices. Here in Bedford County, those will include governor, sixth district U.S. house, and 62nd district state house seats. When you arrive at the polls, you must tell the election worker in which primary you want to vote -- Democratic or Republican. (You can also choose not to vote in a primary election at all, and simply participate in the general election.)

Tennessee does not register voters by party, and so you may vote in whichever primary you choose during a given election -- but you can't vote in both party primaries for the same election.

Simple question

Inevitably, when a primary election is held, the Times-Gazette will be called by one or two voters who don't understand the process and who are offended when they are asked to check "Democratic" or "Republican" on their sign-in form. The form isn't asking you to divulge any secrets; it's just asking in which primary election you want to vote. Otherwise, the poll workers would not know which ballot to give you. If you don't wish to vote in a party primary, you don't have to check either box -- but you'll only be able to vote in the general election.

Your ballot will include all the primary -- if you choose to vote in a primary -- and general election races.

The parties also use the primary elections as an opportunity to select members for their state executive committees.


Tuesday is the last day for new or purged voters to register and be eligible to participate in the Aug. 5 primary and general elections.

Early voting will begin July 16 and continue through July 31.

Here are the elections and the candidates, with (I) indicating an incumbent:


County Mayor

Eugene Ray (I), Democratic nominee


Randall Boyce (I), Democratic nominee

Circuit Court Clerk

Thomas A. Smith (I), Democratic nominee


Tonya Davis, Democratic nominee

County Clerk

Kathy Prater (I), Democratic nominee

Register of Deeds

Johnny Reed (I), Democratic nominee

County Commission

(Two seats per district)

District 1

Bobby Fox (I)

Phillip Vincent (I)

Robert W. Warren

District 2

Robert "Bob" Davis

Bill Sloan

Tony R. Smith (I)

Bobby Vannatta (I)

District 3

Janice L. Brothers (I)

Jimmy S. Patterson (I)

(Georgina Vaughn-Lanier, write-in candidate)

District 4

Billy King Jr. (I)

Jimmy Woodson (I)

Rodney Guinn, Republican nominee

(Anita Epperson, write-in candidate)

District 5

J.D. "Bo" Wilson (I)

Linda Bomar Yockey (I)

District 6

Joe W. Tillett (I)

Jeff Yoes (I)

District 7

Tony Barrett (I)

Denise Graham

(Lizzie M. Peoples, write-in candidate)

District 8

John E. Brown (I)

Ed Castleman (I)

District 9

P.T. "Biff" Farrar (I)

Mark Thomas (I)

Road Board

District 6

No qualified candidates

District 7

Michael Sudberry

District 8

No qualified candidates

District 9

Charles Ronnie Sudberry

School Board

District 2

Ron Adcock (I)

District 3

Rick Gann

Amy Martin (I)

District 4

Sandra Guinn

Diane Neeley (I)

District 6

Andrea Anderson

District 7

Chad D. Graham (I)

Gary Wayne Haile



Dennis Webb (I)


James G. Anderson (I)

Jenny Hunt (I)



Zach Wamp

Bill Haslam

Joe Kirkpatrick

Basil Marceaux Sr.

Ron Ramsey

U.S. House

(Sixth District)

Diane Black

Dave Evans

Gary Dewitt Mann

Bruce McLellan

Kerry E. Roberts

Jim Tracy

Lou Ann Zelenik

Tennessee House

(62nd District)

Joseph C. Byrd

Pat Marsh (I)

Executive Committee


Arthur E. LeGare

Lance Frizzell

Executive Committee (Woman)

Barbara Blanton



Mike McWherter

U.S. House

(Sixth District)

Henry Clay Barry

Devora Butler

Brett Carter

George T. Erdel

Ben Leming

Tennessee House

(62nd District)

Jenny Hunt

Michael Winton

Executive Committee


Mark Farrar

Justin St. Clair

Cory W. Brunson

Executive Committee (Woman)

Kristen M. Cullen

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