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Fields set for November town elections

By Brad Hicks

The November election isn’t just about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Voters in the towns of Erwin and Unicoi will decide the office of mayor for their respective municipality, as well as who will fill several seats on their town’s governing body. These same voters will also decide whether to uncork the sale of wine in grocery stores located within their town’s limits.

The field of candidates in the local races was set on Thursday, Aug. 18, the qualifying deadline for candidates seeking office in November to file their petitions with the Unicom County Election Commission.

Incumbent Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley filed paperwork to seek reelection and will be unopposed in the race for Erwin mayor. But there will be competition for seats on the panel Hensley heads.

Four candidates are vying for two open seats on the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Current Erwin Vice-Mayor Gary Edwards and incumbent Alderwoman Sue Jean Wilson submitted paperwork to seek reelection. Also filing petitions with the Election Commission were Wayne Morris and Rob Martin.

Unlike Hensley, longtime Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch will face opposition in his reelection bid. Current Town of Unicoi Alderwoman Kathy Bullen filed paperwork ahead of Thursday’s qualifying deadline to seek the office of Town of Unicoi mayor in the November election.

Three seats on the Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen will also be decided by voters residing within Unicoi’s municipal limits.

At least one new member will join the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen following the Nov. 8 election. Two candidates are vying to fill the unexpired term of former alderman Phillip Hensley, who resigned from the panel earlier this year. Those filing paperwork in hopes of filling the remaining two years on the term were Roger Cooper and Billy Harkins Jr.

Todd Hopson, appointed to fill the vacancy left by Hensley’s resignation until the next municipal election, is not seeking election to the board.

Four candidates are looking to fill two four-year seats on the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Current Vice-Mayor Doug Hopson and incumbent Alderman Jeff Linville are seeking reelection. Their opponents for the seats will be current Unicoi County Commissioner John Mosley and Jonathan Clint Miller.

Seats on both the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen are staggered, meaning the seats not up for grabs in November will be decided in the 2018 municipal election.

The deadline for candidates to withdraw from the November election is Thursday, Aug. 25, at noon.

Voters residing in each town will also have the chance to vote on referendums to permit the sale of wine in retail food stores located within the limits of the municipalities.

Petitions calling for these referendums have already been returned to the Unicoi County Election Commission, well ahead of this Thursday’s submission deadline. Referendums will appear on the ballots for voters in Erwin and the Town of Unicoi as the previously-disseminated petitions received the required number of valid signatures.

State lawmakers in 2014 approved a law permitted the sale of wine in Tennessee’s grocery stores. The law went into effect on July 1. But, while the law legalized the sale, it was left up to each county or city to have a local option election authorizing the sale of wine in retail food stores.

The number of signatures required on the petitions for the referendums to appear on the November ballot was equal to at least 10 percent of the number of people in each municipality who voted in the 2014 Tennessee gubernatorial race.

The petition distributed in Erwin netted a total of 208 signatures. Of those, 157 were accepted as valid and 51 were denied. A signature may be denied by the Election Commission for several reasons, including the signee not being a registered voter or residing outside of the municipality in which the referendum would be applicable.

A total of 130 valid signatures was required in Erwin for the referendum to appear on the November ballot.

The petition calling for the authorization of wine sales in retail food stores within the Town of Unicoi received a total of 143 signatures. Of those, 141 signatures were counted and only two denied.

A total of 93 valid signatures was required for the referendum to appear on the ballot for voters residing within the Town of Unicoi.