Aaron Murphy finishes second to join two incumbents

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Johnson City Commission candidates waited long into the night to learn results of an eight-person race for three open seats.

Incumbents Todd Fowler and Joe Wise pulled ahead of the field — Fowler in particular — but that left a dogfight for the seat left open by the retirement of Larry Calhoun.

When the dust settled, Thankful Baptist Church pastor Aaron Murphy, who is also the director of Good Samaritan Ministries, had vaulted past Wise to get the second-highest vote total.

Fowler, Murphy and Wise will now serve four-year terms, with Fowler and Wise each entering their second terms.

With absentee and some election day votes recorded — but no early walk-in votes — Fowler was well ahead with 19.98% of the vote. He finished with 20.14% and a total of 11,302 votes.

Voters were allowed to choose up to three candidates.

“I appreciate everyone who worked to help me with my campaign and especially everyone who voted for me,” Fowler told News Channel 11 after winning a second term. “I will continue to work for all the citizens of Johnson City.”

In his first run for office, Murphy finished with 9,299 votes, or 16.57%. That was 980 votes more than third-place Wise, whose 8,319 votes accounted for 14.83%.

“I am more than humbled and grateful to serve and represent the wonderful people of Johnson City,” Murphy said. “It is a blessing to have the opportunity to build on the success of the great leaders that have gone on before me here in our region.”

Wise called his re-election “a great honor.”

“I believe the result is a call for unity in Johnson City moving forward,” Wise said. “I congratulate both Reverend Murphy and Dr. Fowler. I look forward to serving the people of Johnson City with them both.”

After running fifth early, Dr. Turney Williams closed to fourth but was well behind Wise, with 6,839 votes or 12.19%. That put him ahead of Debbie Harley-McClaskey, who had 11.04%.

Jeff Clark won just over 10% of the vote, while Alona Norwood and Kyle Beagle each took about 7%.

Final results:

  • Todd Fowler – 11,705
  • Aaron Murphy – 9,509
  • Joe Wise – 8,569
  • Dr. Turney Williams – 7,070
  • Debbie Harley-McClaskey – 6,422
  • Jeff Clark – 5,920
  • Alona Norwood – 4,405
  • Kyle Beagle – 4,252

The race was somewhat notable for the number of candidates who staked out partisan positions despite all appearing as “independents” on the ballot in what is traditionally a non-partisan race.

Williams, the Washington County Republican Chairman, and Fowler both appeared in Republican promotional materials, though Fowler said at the end of one commission meeting that he wasn’t running as a partisan Republican. He’s a state GOP committeeman.

On the Democratic side, Clark, Harley-McClaskey, Norwood and Beagle all participated in a Democrat party-sponsored forum open only to city commission candidates declaring their affiliation with the party.

That left only Wise and Murphy sticking to a course of non-partisanship in a race that used to hold its elections in April when nothing else was on the ballot. Johnson City changed its charter several years ago, moving the elections to coincide with the November elections in order to save money.

Johnson City commissioners are elected to four-year terms. The five seats are staggered, and Mayor Jenny Brock and Commissioner John Hunter aren’t up for re-election until 2022.

News Channel 11 is Your Local Election Headquarters. For in-depth coverage of the races and election news, head to the Your Local Election HQ page.