By Jeff Keeling
They may have been the incumbents, but Sixth and Seventh District state representatives Micah Van Huss and Matthew Hill ran — and won — as anti-establishment candidates in their Republican primary races for re-election.
Both candidates pulled away strongly when election-day votes were tallied. Hill had led by just 48 votes out of more than 3,500 cast in early voting, while Van Huss had a somewhat stronger lead. Hill’s tiny margin widened to more than 700 votes when election-day results rolled in. The final results were 3,966 votes for Hill to 3,214 for Carriger. A third candidate, Todd Franklin, garnered 265 votes.
Van Huss defeated Clayton Stout, Johnson City’s vice mayor, by a comfortable margin of 55.9 percent to 44 percent, tallying 4,443 votes to 3,495.
The pair both watched election results roll in with a crowd of supporters at Jonesborough’s AmericInn Hotel.
Hill, who garnered the support of associations of teachers, firefighters, police and state employees, said he believed events over the past couple of weeks (near and past the end of early voting) helped him. Hill painted an invitation-only party at Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s farm (to which he was not invited), and a number of negative campaign ads by Carriger, as proof the local Republican establishment was willing to pull out all the stops to prevent him from a sixth term.
“Washington Countians clearly don’t like negativity,” Hill said. “They don’t like people’s families being brought into things, and they want to know that the people they elect are for everyone, not just certain groups of people.”
For his part, Van Huss attributed his leading role in legislation changing annexation law to require referendum approval by voters living in an area which a municipality wishes to annex. After thanking God, his family and his supporters — as did Hill — Van Huss told News and Neighbor the annexation issue was a major factor in his victory.
“As the Gray vote entails, tripling (Stout’s vote totals), people were very appreciative of the annexation legislation,” said Van Huss, who won a second term.
Van Huss also mentioned what he called his stance against the establishment.
“I did a lot of that these last two years, and I’m looking forward to standing up, Republican, Democrat, it doesn’t matter, if you are wrong you are wrong and I will speak up for what I believe is right.”
Looking forward to the 2015 legislative session, Van Huss mentioned a couple of targets.
“We’re looking to get rid of the Hall Income Tax, we’re looking to allow folks to de-annex from cities, and some other good stuff, so I’m looking forward to it. I am thankful to the people of District Six and honored by their confidence.”
Carriger, a former Johnson City commissioner, was low-key in his response to the results.
“I can’t think of anything I would have done differently,” Carriger said. “I ran as hard as I could. The people have spoken.
“I’ll get up in the morning and get on with my life. I still have my wife, my children, my grandchildren and friends. Quite honestly, that’s more important than politics.”
On calling Hill to concede: “He was gracious. It was fine.”
Hill said he had started Thursday feeling good about his chances at re-election.
“We had knocked on 4,000 doors … and we’d made our phone calls and we’d really made our case,” he said. “Our case was ‘we stand up for everyone.’ My job is to stand up for everyone, no matter what their background is. I tried my best, and obviously we were successful, to make the case that that’s what I have been doing, and that’s what I want to continue to do is stand up for everyone in Washington County — whether they live in Johnson City, Jonesborough or Washington County.
Neither Hill nor Van Huss opposed in November’s general election.