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Election races final – or are they?

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April 10 deadline to withdraw

By Damon Lawrence

Thursday’s filing deadline came and went with Tom McFarland and Mike Pemberton as the only two candidates for 9th Judicial District circuit court judge.

That race may not be set, however.

Willis Hall, 120 Phillips Road, Kingston, filed a complaint with the Roane County Election Commission challenging Pemberton’s residency.

The judicial district is comprised of Roane, Loudon, Meigs and Morgan counties. Hall alleges that Pemberton does not live in the district.

The judge hopeful owns a home on Kirkham Drive south of Rockwood, which is in the district. He also owns a home on Millstone Lane in Knoxville, which is not in the district.

Pemberton said Kirkham Drive is his primary residence, and he only stays at the Knoxville home occasionally for work reasons. His law office is in Knoxville.

Hall, a former client of McFarland’s, filed his complaint on Monday. Roane County Administrator of Elections Charles Holiway said he doesn’t know if the Roane County Election Commission can hear the complaint.

“Since it’s a multi-county race, does the State Election Commission have to make the decision regarding the residency or is it the county in which the candidate is registered to vote?” Holiway said. “If it’s the county election commission that has to do that, it will be a part of our April 28 meeting.”

Holiway said his office has contacted the state for guidance and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins is supposed to be checking with the Attorney General’s Office.

“I haven’t contacted the two parties to tell them who will be holding the hearing because I was waiting for Mr. Goins to get an opinion from the state attorney general,” Holiway said.

Other races for the Aug. 7 election are set. Incumbent Jack Stockton will face Rockwood police officer Jared Hall in the race for Roane County sheriff.

Ron Woody will face Mike Farmer in the race for Roane County executive. Farmer served as Roane County executive from Sept. 1, 2006 to Aug. 31, 2010. He sought a second term, but was defeated by Woody.

“This race is pretty clear,” Woody said. “You’ve got a former county executive and a current county executive that have both managed the county’s finances. We’ve managed different, and we’ve led different, and the public will get to decide which of the two candidates they want to have.”

Ann Goldston, Sarah Stewart and Marty Miles are vying to replace Kim Nelson as circuit court clerk. Nelson is running against incumbent Joe Walker for 9th Judicial District public defender.

Candidates for all races have until April 10 at noon to withdraw. A complete list of candidates and races for the Aug. 7 election can be found on Page 1 of today’s edition.

Holiway said there were no last-minute surprises.

Larry Brackett (District 1 school board) and Chris Ahler (Harriman City Council) were the only two candidates to file on Thursday.

Rockwood attorney Greg Leffew will be able to coast into the $93,775 part-time Roane County attorney position.

No other candidates stepped forward by Thursday’s deadline.

Russell Johnson won a hard-fought campaign against Scott McCluen in 2006 to become district attorney general for the 9th Judicial District.

No other candidates filed to run this year, which will allow Johnson to run unopposed.

“I would like to think that’s because we’re doing a good job,” he said. “We’ve not had any significant turnover in staff. We still have the same attorneys we started with. That usually speaks well about what’s going on.”

Johnson is not the only judicial incumbent who is running unopposed this year. The others include Chancellor Frank Williams, Criminal Court Judge Eugene Eblen and General Sessions Court Judges Dennis Humphrey and Jeff Wicks.

Judicial terms are eight years.

“I’m grateful to not have an opponent,” Johnson said. “It means I can start concentrating now on the next eight years.”