By Richard Rourk
The Unicoi County Election Commission continues to see an increase in early voting numbers despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have had a tremendous turnout,” Unicoi County Election Commission Administrator Sarah Fain said.
By Monday, July 27 at 2 p.m., 1,339 of the roughly 10,000 registered voters in Unicoi County have voted. Of those voters, 255 voters have chosen to cast their ballots by mail.
“This is a huge uptick in numbers from previous years for mail votes and residents will have until July 30 to vote by mail,” Fain said.
Fain has been impressed with not only the turnout of voters, but also the patience and understanding that the voters and staff are showing in the face of COVID-19.
“We are disinfecting and covering the guidelines set forth by the health department,” Fain said. “Although masks are not required to vote, we strongly encourage them and most people have worn them.”
The early voting period will run through Saturday, Aug. 1 and the next opportunity to vote will be Aug. 6.
The Aug. 6 primary contains several races. Citizens are voting for primary candidates for Lamar Alexander’s U.S. Senate seat that includes a field of five Democrats and 14 Republicans. The field of Democrats includes Marquita Bradshaw, Gary Davis, Robin Kimbrough, James Mackler and Mark Pickrell. The field of Republicans includes Clifford Adkins, Natisha Brooks, Byron Bush, Roy Dale Cope, Terry Dicus, Tom Emerson Jr., George Flinn Jr., Bill Hagerty, Jon Henry, Kent Morrell, Glen Neal Jr., John Osborne, Aaron Pettigrew, David Schuster and Manny Sethi.
The primary for the U.S. House of Representatives District 1 seat will also take place on Aug. 6. This race includes three Democrats and 16 Republicans vying to replace U.S. Representative Phil Roe who is retiring at the conclusion of his term. The field for Democrats includes Chris Rowe, Larry Smith and Blair Walsingham. For the Republicans, Jay Adkins, Phil Arlinghaus, Richard Baker, Chance Cansler, John Clark, Rusty Crowe, Steve Darden, Chad Fleenor, Robert Franklin, Josh Gapp, Diana Harshbarger, David Hawk, Timothy Hill, Chuck Miller, Carter Quillen and Nichole Williams are listed on the ballot for District 1.
There are a few local races on the Aug. 6 ballot. Those in the District 2 precinct of Unicoi County will vote for two seats on the Unicoi County Board of Education. District 2 voters cast their ballots at Unicoi County High School and Rock Creek Elementary School.
Current Unicoi County Board of Education member Glenn Fisher is seeking reelection to the panel. Also vying for a seat on the school board in the Aug. 6 election are Michael Baker and Allan Foster.
Also in August, incumbent Teresa Tipton Kinsler is running unopposed for Unicoi County Assessor of Property.
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Races in the towns of Erwin and Unicoi will be decided on Nov. 3.
Currently, Baker, Daniel Crouch and Glenn White are vying for Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley’s seat, according to information from the Unicoi County Election Commission. Hensley recently announced plans to retire at the end of her term.
Alderwoman Rachelle Hyder-Shurtz is the only candidate so far in the race for two open seats on Erwin’s alderman race.
In the Town of Unicoi, incumbent Johnny Lynch and Alderwoman Kathy Bullen are the only candidates so far for mayor.
Current Alderman Jeff Linville, as well as Deborah Bennett and Charles Cooper are vying for two alderman seats in the Town of Unicoi.
Town candidates have until Aug. 20 at noon to qualify for the Nov. 3 election.