Humphrey made the announcement in the conference room of the Carter County Election Commission on Wednesday morning, just 15 minutes before the noon deadline for write-in candidates.
Humphrey finished second to Rusty Barnett in a four-candidate field in the May 1 Carter County Republican Primary. In the contest, Barnett had 3,680 votes, for 38.77 percent of the vote. Humphrey followed with 2,955 votes, for 31.13 percent of the vote. Danny Ward was third with 2,236 votes for 23.55 percent of the vote. Larry Shell had 615 votes for 6.48 percent of the vote.
Humphrey said he initially conceded the race to Barnett on the night of the election and subsequently said he would not mount a write-in campaign. He said his mind was changed because “I have been bombarded daily by citizens requesting that I allow them the opportunity to vote for me during the general election as a write-in candidate.”
Humphrey said “these citizens feel that my opponent won the primary election not because of what he knows, for his highest level of education attained is a GED (General Equivalency Diploma), nor his lack of management experience, but rather, he is a ‘good ole boy’ who is eagerly ready to go along just to get along.”
Barnett responded to the criticism by saying “I was kind of surprised by the announcement. I usually take a man’s word as true unless he proves otherwise.”
Barnett responded to Humphrey’s comments about his educational achievements by saying he went to high school for four years, but it is true that he left school two months before graduation.
He said he did so because he had just gotten married and was expecting a child. “I left because I had to support my family and I took a full-time job.”
He said when he entered politics he thought there might be a time when his GED would be used to attack him. For that reason, he said he discussed it with his children. He said he was told by a son that he had “manned up and did the right thing instead of just walking away or seeking an abortion.”
Barnett eventually joined the Elizabethton Fire Department and rose to be deputy chief. He said that position requires managerial skills and responsibilities and he has taken many courses, including about two years of college level courses. He said his interest in education for everyone led him to join the Carter County School Board and become the chairman of the board.
“I have worked for everything I have achieved. With the fire department and the school board, I must show leadership and work to reach right decisions,” Barnett said.
In his announcement of his write-in candidacy, Humphrey accused Barnett of not having a plan for the economic advancement of the county and that he would “let the Commission and other Haves tell him what to do.”
Barnett said the mayor’s comments are not true. “I did not say I would allow anyone else to run the mayor’s office. What I did say was that the mayor and the County Commission need to work together. That is what the problem is: for the last eight years the mayor and the County Commission have not worked together.”
Humphrey said he did fight with the Commission.
“As you know during my first administration, I fought the old Commission every single day to ensure that their actions were for the good of all the people, not just the Haves that were directing their actions. During my first term I was successful and many Commissioners did not see re-election. During my second term, I fought some of the remaining old Commission every single day who were and continue to be obstructionists.”
Humphrey compared the county government to a “very expensive ($70+ million dollar annual budget) old and run-down crumbling house that cannot be repaired due to decay and infestation. The rot must be removed and a new foundation laid. There must be new floors, walls and roof installed before we can ever advance from a Tier 4 County.” He said in 2017 he began to see success and $1 million in grants have been obtained since then. “If I am not permitted to continue this work all that has been accomplished will be lost.”
Barnett said that by working together, the county should be able to accomplish more in less than eight years.
Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said as a write-in candidate, Humphrey’s name will not appear on the August ballot. She said if a voter wants to cast a write-in vote, there is a box under each office which is listed “write-in.” She said that by checking that box, a keyboard is displayed, allowing the voter to type in the name of the person they want write in.