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Incumbents prevail in several controversial East Tennessee primaries

The candidates include a man in Monroe County who was previously barred from serving as sheriff, and several controversial Sevier County candidates.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — East Tennessee voters gathered at polling places Tuesday to cast ballots deciding who would run in the August general elections.

Some primaries drew attention because of controversial candidates, including county commission and district attorney races in Sevier County and the sheriff's race in Monroe County.

Election officials said voter turnout was relatively low across East Tennessee, including in Knox County. In Sevier County, 4,069 early ballots were cast and 275 absentee ballots were cast.

Some of the biggest outlying county races are listed below.

Latest Primary Election Results

Monroe County — Sheriff Primary Election

A man who was previously barred from serving as the Monroe County sheriff is back on the ballot

The Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission ruled Randy White was eligible eight years after a decision against him led a judge to remove him from the job.

In 2014, White beat incumbent Sheriff Bill Bivens and took office for around a month before a judge removed him following a ruling which said he did not have enough law enforcement experience to serve as sheriff. 

Incumbent candidate Sheriff Tommy Jones requested the review of White's eligibility in February. Jones was re-elected in 2016 and 2018 when he beat White with 57% of the vote. 

Tommy Jones was projected to vote with 54% of the vote, with all precincts reporting in.

Sevier County — County Commissioner District 1

A Sevier County commissioner is running unopposed on the Republican ballot, after he attracted national attention for making several homophobic comments during an October 2019 public meeting.

Warren Hurst made several offensive remarks and used slurs about a candidate who was running for president.

"We got a queer running for president if that ain't about as ugly as you can get," Hurst reportedly said. "Look what we got running for president in the Democratic Party. We can go over here to Hoss's jail [Sevier County Sheriff] and get better people out of there than those running for Democrat to be President of the United States."

Greg Haggard, another Sevier Co. commissioner, also confirmed Hurst made the following comment: "I'm not prejudiced, a white male in this country has very few rights and they're getting took more every day."

He got 933 votes against 25 write-in votes Tuesday night, according to election officials.

Sevier County — District Attorney General District 4

One of the men running in the Republican primary election for District Attorney General faced a DUI misdemeanor in 2014. A Pigeon Forge police officer pulled Michael Shults over after someone reported a "possible impaired driver," according to court records.

Shults was later indicted on driving under the influence, knowingly refusing to take a blood or breath alcohol content test, and failing to maintain his lane of travel. Shults pleaded guilty to one DUI count, and a judge sentenced him to serve 48 hours in jail as well as a year of unsupervised probation.

The misdemeanor charge does not prevent Shults from running for District Attorney General. 

As of around 9:30 p.m. with Sevier, Cocke, Jefferson, and Grainger counties posting early voting results, incumbent James B. "Jimmy" Dunn led the Republican primary election by a wide margin with around 78% of the vote.

By 9:30 p.m. all Sevier County precincts were reporting in.

Sevier County — County Commissioner District 7, Seat A

Public records show that Sevier County Commissioner Ronnie Allen married Roberta Webb-Allen in 2018. She was later indicted for state crimes while working as a deputy clerk in Sevier County involving accepting bribes and knowingly creating titles for cars with fraudulent VIN numbers.

Webb-Allen was charged alongside another deputy clerk in a federal indictment. In the indictment, prosecutors said the two women worked with Juan Jose Lopez Gallardo, who is facing criminal charges for conspiring to distribute cocaine and obtaining false title and registration for stolen vehicles. 

The indictments said Webb-Allen and another woman received "payment in United States currency" for "intentionally forcing the registration and creation of a vehicle title using a vehicle identification number that she knew to be fraudulent."

As of 9:30 p.m. with 100% of precincts and early votes reported, Allen led the primary over challengers Jim Flynn and Ben Gibson with just over 42% of the vote. 

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