Grandy defeats Ferguson, Tomita in the Washington County Republican mayoral primary

Zach Vance • Updated May 1, 2018 at 11:17 PM

An elated crowd of Joe Grandy supporters let out a collective sigh of relief Tuesday night as the final results of the Washington County Republican primary for mayor were displayed on a big screen during a watch party at the Carnegie Hotel.

Washington County voters chose Grandy, a two-term Washington County commissioner and chairman of the Budget Committee, over former Washington County Commissioner Mark Ferguson and current Johnson City Mayor David Tomita in an ugly and highly contested race.

Grandy garnered 37.93 percent of the vote and just narrowly topped Ferguson by just 158 votes, according to the unofficial results. Grandy finished the night with 4,804 votes to Ferguson’s 4,646, which represented 36.68 percent of the total.

Tomita finished the race with 3,176 for 25.08 percent of the vote.

Grandy will now face James Reeves, who is running as an independent this year, in the Aug. 2 general election.

Amid shaking hands and giving out hugs, Grandy said he was thankful for all the support he received and admitted he was happy the acrimonious race was over.

“We worked on it for months, and it’s been challenging both emotionally and physically. But, I knocked on a lot of doors and met a lot of great folks in Washington County face to face, and I think, at the end of the day, it made a difference,” Grandy said.

“To me, it was a team effort, and it’s just humbling to have this type of support. We still have another election to go through in August, and then there will be plenty of work to do for whoever survives that.”

Following a raucous round of applause, Grandy stood in the middle of the ballroom and delivered a speech to his supporters, thanking them for hoisting him to victory.

“I just want to thank all the people who supported me, great friends, great colleagues and the folks who invested their time, energy and resources in me. It's just completely humbling to have all these people step up to help,” Grandy said.

“We had a great launch back in the fall and had a lot of people there, really good people. So the expectation from these people is high. So there's a lot of pressure on performance to move Washington County forward in a way that's respectful of these people's expectations.”

Grandy said winning this race was one of the greatest honors of his life because it demonstrated Washington County voters have confidence in his leadership.

If Grandy is elected mayor in August, he said his first priority entering office will be figuring out a way to move the Jonesborough school project forward in conjunction with the Washington County Board of Education.

“Obviously, we still have some issues to deal with in respect to figuring out, and listening to the Board of Education, to try to understand the plan for the Jonesborough school, and for getting their education program up to its maximum performance. That's the No. 1 priority,” Grandy said.

Grandy overcame various accusations leveled against him by a political action committee called Taxpayers Fighting Back for Washington County.

In the waning days of the campaign, the PAC said Grandy’s campaign accepted a contribution from a healthcare company that, just 50 days earlier, he voted as a member of the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency board to approve a “change of control” that allowed the same company to take majority ownership of a hospital in Hamilton County.

Ferguson also hit a few snags along the campaign trail. In early April, Ferguson addressed a 2014 video that showed him purportedly attempting to fight former Jonesborough Mayor Kelley Wolfe on the sidewalk outside the Blackthorn Club. 

The winner of the August general election will replace two-term incumbent Mayor Dan Eldridge, who announced in October that he would not seek re-election in 2018, stating he never intended to serve more than two terms.

Eldridge defeated Don Arnold and James Reeves in the 2010 Republican primary for county mayor, and in 2014, defeated Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford in his re-election bid.

In total, 12,666 votes were cast for mayor in the 2018 county Republican primary for mayor, compared to 12,441 votes in 2014 and 13,060 votes in 2010. Of that, 6,431 votes were either absentee ballots or early votes.

The winner of August race will become just the third person in the last 32 years to assume mayoral duties in Washington County, following Eldridge's eight years and his predecessor George Jaynes' 24 years at the helm.

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