Early Voting Begins Friday for August Election


Friday kicks off the early-voting period for this year’s Aug. 1 State Primary and County General Election. Across Weakley County, voters will have the option to cast a ballot for school-board members, a contested county mayoral race and choose whether they want to vote in the state Republican or Democratic primaries for legislators.

With the recent vacancy created when former Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum made the move to a position with the University of Tennessee System, a replacement is needed to fulfill the remaining two years of his term. Three local candidates are looking to gain the seat.

Dale Hutcherson of Dresden is seeking the seat as an Independent candidate. Hutcherson is an attorney and serves as an alderman for the City of Dresden.

Danny Powers of Martin is a county mayoral candidate, also as an Independent. Powers is retired, after managing a farm and construction business. He is a volunteer for the local Meals on Wheels program.

After a handful of Weakley County Republican Party meetings with the state party making a final decision, John Robert Freeman of Sharon was declared as the only candidate who was a bona fide Republican. He is seeking the county mayoral seat as the Republican Party nominee. Freeman is a current county commissioner and local farmer.

A Weakley County Mayoral Candidate Forum is set for tonight (Thursday, July 11) at 6 in the Watkins Auditorium on the UT Martin campus.

Two school-board races have more than one candidate seeking the position for their district. This year, voters in odd-numbered districts will choose a school-board member to serve the next four years.

In District 5, which is a portion of Martin, there are two candidates seeking the seat.

Margaret B. Lewis, an Independent candidate, is challenging incumbent Wendell Cates, who is a Republican. Lewis is a history professor at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Cates is a retired consultant for Batesville, who was appointed to the school-board seat in 2021 after the former representative, Kim Longacre, moved out of District 5.

In District 9, which is Dresden, incumbent Joshua Moore, is facing opposition from Shannon Taylor. Moore, a Republican, serves as chairman of the school board. He is a pastor and insurance agent.

Taylor is the editor of the Dresden Enterprise and Martin Post newspapers in Weakley County and working on her doctorate degree.

Uncontested school-board races include the following: District 1 - incumbent Gath Meeks (Independent); District 3 - Incumbent Jeff Floyd (Independent) and District 7 - Doug Sims (Republican).

Two candidates are vying for the unexpired term for District 1 Constable - Phillip “PJ” Russell (Republican) and Adam Ledezma (Independent).

There are also two candidates seeking to fill the unexpired term for District 9 Constable - Austin Powell (Republican) and Keith Sumner (Independent).

Derek Coble (Republican) is the sole candidate seeking to fill the unexpired term for District 4 Constable.

Current county Property Assessor Lisa Odle (Republican) faces no opposition. 

At the state level, voters will have the option to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary.

Incumbent 8th District Congressman U.S. Rep. David Kustoff is running unopposed in the Republican primary. Kustoff of Memphis has served in the position since 2017.

On the Democratic ticket, there are five candidates vying for the 8th District Congressional seat - Sarah Freeman, Leonard Perkins, Lawrence A. Pivnick, Lynette P. Williams and Brenda Woods.

Tennessee’s 8th District comprises Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, McNairy, Obion, Tipton, and Weakley counties. It also contains a large piece of Shelby County, including the eastern part of Memphis, half of Tipton County, and a small piece of Benton County.

The U.S. Senatorial race has a slate of candidates looking to unseat the current senator, Marsha Blackburn. Voters who opt for a Republican primary ballot will see Blackburn and her opponent, Tres Wittum.

Democratic voters will see the following candidates on their ballot - Marquita Bradshaw, Gloria Johnson, Lola Denise Brown and Civil-Miller Watkins.

In the Tennessee House of Representatives District 76 race, current representative, Tandy Darby of Greenfield, faces no opposition in the Republican primary. There are no Democratic candidates seeking the District 76 seat.

The State Senate race for District 24 has two candidates vying for the seat on the Republican ballot - incumbent John D. Stevens of Huntingdon and challenger Charles “Charlie” Cooper of Benton County. There are no Democratic candidates seeking the state senate seat.

There are three candidates seeking the state executive committeewoman seat for District 24 in the Democratic primary - Tammy Floyd-Wade, Virginia Ginger House and Elizabeth LeMoine. Mark Flake is the state executive committeeman Democratic candidate for District 24.

Voters will also be asked if two judges should be retained or replaced.

Dwight Tarwater serves as the at-large judge on the Tennessee Supreme Court. Justice Tarwater of Knoxville was the most-recent confirmation to the state’s Supreme Court as of last year. He was nominated by Gov. Bill Lee. Tarwater served as a general counsel for former Gov. Bill Haslam from 2014-19.

Matthew J. Wilson serves as a judge in the Western District for the Court of Criminal Appeals. He was confirmed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2023. Wilson is from Jackson in west Tennessee. Wilson fills the vacancy left after the death of Judge John Everett Williams in 2022.

Early voting begins Friday through Saturday, July 27.

Voters can cast an early ballot at the Weakley County Election Commission office, 135 S. Poplar St., Ste. A, Dresden or the Martin City Masonic Lodge, 7900 Hwy. 45 S, Martin. Both locations will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. until noon on Saturdays.

Sabrina Bates, sabrina@richardsonmediagroup.net