Election commission approves candidate roster for upcoming Bradley County races
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Election Office will soon post the sample May 1 ballot on its website.
“We are just waiting on the state to give us final approval before we publish the sample ballot,” Fran Green, Bradley County election administrator, said Monday afternoon.
Green’s statement followed the Bradley Election Commission’s 4-0 vote to approve the 42 candidates who qualified for the ballot as of the Feb. 15 deadline. Forty-one of the candidates have qualified for the Republican primary; a candidate who seeks a District 7 county commission seat has qualified for the Democratic primary.
Bradley County voters will go about choosing their 14 commissioners — each district has two seats — a little differently this election cycle. In the past, the candidates who earned the most and second-most votes in a districtwide race claimed the district’s two commission seats. Now, candidates fight for a given district’s Seat A or Seat B.
Last summer, the Bradley County Commission voted 8-6 to change the decades-old method of electing commissioners from a districtwide candidate pool.
Election officials say the community hasn’t really approached them about the new commission selection process, but that could change when it comes time to cast votes.
“I haven’t heard anything yet and nobody’s reached out to me,” Election Commission chairman Travis Henry said after Monday’s meeting. “I imagine folks may have questions the day of the election. We want to make sure our officials can explain at the booths at that point.”
Bradley County Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber, who championed the change to commission seat elections, has called for an “open mind” on the new method. The old way of electing commissioners discouraged people from using both their votes out of fear of hurting their favorite candidate, he has said.
Bradley County’s 2014 primary election archives show not every voter cast two votes in commission races. For example, the Oak Grove precinct tallied 962 voters, but only counted 1,409 votes total for the district’s four-way commission race. The Hopewell precinct counted 816 voters, but only 1,199 votes between its four commission candidates.
Commissioner Howard Thompson, one of the six commissioners who voted against Yarber’s proposal, has said he didn’t see a need to change something that worked for nearly 50 years.
Twenty-two candidates, including 12 incumbents, seek to fill the commission’s 14 seats. Only four incumbents face opposition. Voters will decide six contested commission seats.
Republican primary voters will decide who will be Bradley County’s next sheriff and Circuit Court clerk, the only two contested countywide seats. Sheriff Eric Watson and
Circuit Court Clerk Gayla Miller face challenges from Steve Lawson and Jeff Young, respectively.
Early voting begins April 11.
Contact Paul Leach at paul.leach.press@gmail. com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_3.