May 23, 2022

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Here’s who’s among the Knox County candidates moving on to the 2022 general election

Nearly every countywide office was on the ballot as voters headed to the polls on Tuesday for Knox County’s primary election.

But only a few candidates will be moving on to the general election in August.

The Republican-heavy slate of candidates with few Democratic challengers means the primary election is likely the deciding vote for many offices, including sheriff and public defender.

More: Knox County primary election results 2022: Updated vote totals as they come in

Here’s what you need to know about who’s moving on and who’s off the ballot in the general election in August.

County sheriff

Incumbent Sheriff Tom Spangler defeated long-time Knox County political force Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, the former county sheriff who couldn’t run in 2018 because of term limits.

There’s no one challenging him on the Democratic ticket, so he’ll be heading into the general election in August unopposed.

Jones chose to run after hearing about low morale within the office, saying that he “left it in great shape” and doesn’t like how it’s changed since 2018.

One thing the two candidates had in common: Supporting the controversial 287(g) program. The partnership between federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement was not lawfully implemented in 2017, Knox News has reported.

County mayor

South Knoxville native Debbie Helsley defeated her two Democratic primary challengers Bob Fischer and Tyler Givens for the chance to unseat current Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs in the general election.

No one took a chance at running against Jacobs in the Republican primary.

Democrat candidates for Knox County mayor from left, Debbie Helsley, Tyler Givens, and Bob Fischer, answer questions during a Knox County candidate forum at Town Hall East in Monday, March 14, 2022.

Democrat candidates for Knox County mayor from left, Debbie Helsley, Tyler Givens, and Bob Fischer, answer questions during a Knox County candidate forum at Town Hall East in Monday, March 14, 2022.

County trustee

Justin Biggs, the current county commissioner who’s spent more than 15 years working in the trustee office, defeated Richard Jacobs in the Republican primary for a chance to become Knox County’s next banker.

The trustee office serves as the county’s bank, collecting and distributing property taxes and manages a nearly $900 million budget.

Biggs, who is well-known for his support to dismantle the Knox County Board of Health’s authority during the COVID-19 pandemic, claims he’s worked every job in the trustee office.

Biggs will face Democrat Dave “Caz” Cazalet in the general election.

Commissioner Justin Biggs looks at his computer during a virtual Knox County Commission meeting, in the City County Building in downtown Knoxville, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Despite the meeting being held virtually on Zoom due to rising COVID-19 cases, commissioners Kyle Ward, Carson Dailey, and Justin Biggs logged on from the City County Building.

Commissioner Justin Biggs looks at his computer during a virtual Knox County Commission meeting, in the City County Building in downtown Knoxville, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Despite the meeting being held virtually on Zoom due to rising COVID-19 cases, commissioners Kyle Ward, Carson Dailey, and Justin Biggs logged on from the City County Building.

Public defender

Eric Lutton has essentially been reelected as Knox County’s public defender. He didn’t face any primary challengers, and no Democrat is running against him in the general election.

It’s the second election he’s participated in after he stepped in in November 2019 when former public defender Mark Stephens stepped down early. He previously worked in the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office.

Eric M. Lutton was appointed in 2019 to be Knox County's public defender, tasked with representing the county's poor in criminal cases, after former Public Defender Mark Stephens retired. Lutton, a Republican, then won election last year.

Eric M. Lutton was appointed in 2019 to be Knox County’s public defender, tasked with representing the county’s poor in criminal cases, after former Public Defender Mark Stephens retired. Lutton, a Republican, then won election last year.

District attorney general

Both Republican Charme Allen, the incumbent district attorney for Knoxville, and Democratic challenger Jackson Fenner ran uncontested in their primaries.

The two will face off in the general election in August.

County clerks

All the candidates for Knox County Clerks ran uncontested in their primaries.

Republican incumbent Charlie Susano will challenge Democrat Dana Moran in the general election for Circuit, Civil Sessions and Juvenile Court Clerk.

Mike Hammond, the incumbent for Criminal Court Clerk, and Sherry Witt, the incumbent for County Clerk, won’t face challengers in the general election in August.

County commissioner at-large, seat 10

The only incumbent in the county commission races has defeated his opponent in the Republican primaries for another chance to fight for his seat.

Larsen Jay, the film producer turned philanthropist turned county commissioner, will tee up against Democrat Dylan Earley in the general election to keep his seat as one of Knox County’s at-large commissioners.

Jay was the lone Republican commissioner who voted against removing rule-making power from the county board of health during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Commissioner at-large, seat 11

Kim Frazier defeated Devin Driscoll in the Republican primary for one of Knox County’s at-large seats.

Frazier will face Democrat Vivian Shipe and independent Donald Bridges the general election.

The winner in the general election will fill the seat held by Justin Biggs, who is running to be Knox County’s next trustee after just one term on the commission.

County commissioner, District 3

Gina Oster, a real estate agent with Southern Legacy Realty, defeated Nicholas Ciparro in the Republican primary for Knox County’s District 3 county commissioner.

Oster will face Democrat Stuart Hohl in the general election.

Oster ran, and lost, against Eddie Mannis in the Republican primary for Tennessee State House District 18 in 2020.

Randy Smith currently holds the seat but can’t run again because of term limits. The district includes Cedar Bluff, northwest city of Knoxville, south Karns, west Ball Camp and Dutchtown.

County commissioner, District 7

Rhonda Lee, an attorney from Powell, has defeated Allen Merritt and Chuck Severance in the Republican primary race for Knox County’s District 7 county commissioner.

She won’t face a challenger in the general election in August.

She’s filling the seat of Charles Busler, who is term limited. The district includes Heiskell, Powell and Halls Crossroads neighborhoods.

Knox News government and politics reporter Tyler Whetstone contributed to this story.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect date for the Knox County general election. The error has been corrected.

Becca Wright: Higher education reporter at Knox News
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knox County 2022 general election takes shape after primaries