SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The race for the top spot in the region’s largest county is on as early voting kicked off in Sullivan County.
Incumbent Richard Venable will be the option for the Republican party on the ballot in August, facing Independent candidates Val George and Bobby Weaver.
Each candidate has his own spin on what he hopes to bring to the table if elected next month. If the primary election was any indication, this could be a close race — in May, Venable beat out challenger Angie Stanley by just 121 votes.
Now, challenger Val George hopes to make his mark.
“I believe that it’s time for a change. I believe that there’s a lot going on in the world that it’s just we need to do some different options,” George told News Channel 11.
Unable to reach candidate Bobby Weaver for comment, he was excluded from this report.
Venable told News Channel 11 that he hopes to finish the job he started.
“There’s so many important things going on right now that need to be finished, among them the jail,” he said.
If elected, longtime politician Venable says he thinks this will be his last term before retirement.
“I think at my age it’s reasonable to say that. My energy level is still good, I hope I’m about 10 years younger than my chronological age – I always have been,” he said.
George said he wants to be a breath of fresh air to the voters who have been divided for so long now, so he decided to run as an independent.
Working in real estate, he said he has ample experience working with people on both sides of the political spectrum and has been able to navigate the wants and needs of both liberals and conservatives.
“Because I think we need to bring everyone back to the middle,” George said. “I think politics has gone far right and far left, and I think that doesn’t really solve anything. I think we need to bring everyone back to the middle.”
Actively campaigning, George is set up outside the Kingsport Civic Auditorium, one of Sullivan County’s early voting locations. He said he spoke with potential voters and the topics of concern seemed to be medical providers, the county jail and education.
George said he advocates for the teachers of Tennessee, hopes to push for better healthcare availability for citizens and hopes to advocate for the region in both Nashville and Washington D.C. if elected.
Venable said he hopes his more than 30 years of public service will help him lead the 10 new county commissioners, along with the 12 incumbents to a better tomorrow.
“I’ve worked on that for a good part of my life, bringing good jobs to Sullivan County,” Venable said. “We’re working on regionalism, to maximize how we can use our natural resources here to attract tourism, which attracts sales tax dollars, which attracts schools.”
He said he also hopes to bring better technology onboard to make the county commission more easily accessible. George hopes to bring a younger voice to the county and hopes to represent all citizens.
“With us just getting out of a crisis, I want us to really go forward and be enthusiastic about what we have in this area and give everybody the opportunity to really be happy where we live,” George said.
Early voting runs through July 30 for the August 4 state primary and county general elections.
Registered voters can vote at their county’s early voting location but on election day, voters will be required to vote at their designated polling location.