CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) — An Anderson County commissioner believes his job as a rural mail carrier could disqualify him for elected office. His concern follows a decision by the Anderson County Democratic and Republican parties to include County Commission in the upcoming May primary. The change means candidates would have R’s and D’s next to their names. It also means some federal employees may be prohibited from serving their own communities.
Anderson County Administrator of Elections Mark Stephens noted most local elections are partisan, including county mayor and sheriff and said the change is not that big of an issue. It’s a huge issue to Commission Chair Joshua Anderson.
Anderson, who has been with the U.S. Postal Service since 2013, was looking forward to tackling a range of issues in another term.
“I really enjoy being able to help the community and represent the community,” he said.
His current term ends September 2022. He believes the Hatch Act disqualifies him for another run.
USPS’s website does reference the Hatch Act and says employees may not be a candidate for office in partisan elections. It’s why Anderson is urging Anderson County party leaders to reconsider their stance.
“We’ve never had a partisan commission,” he said. “It’s not just going to affect postal employees. It affects TVA employees, the federal DOE employees in Oak Ridge. We’ve got a huge population in Anderson County of federal employees.”
Stephens said Thursday leaders of both parties sent letters asking for partisan commission races next year. The local Democrats, he explained, sent a more generic letter, asking for all offices to be included on the ballot in May. While he’s heard they plan to submit another letter, taking commission out of the primary, Stephens hasn’t received it at the time.
He noted candidates could still run as independents, but their names wouldn’t appear on any ballot until the August general election.
“They can qualify,” Stephens said. “They can go on the ballot. They can run. The only thing would then be the issue would be them serving. That would be the issue.
“We don’t disqualify anybody because they may be a federal employee.”
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For now, the plan is to include all eight County Commission districts in the Democratic and GOP primaries next year. For commission to be truly nonpartisan, Stephens said, leadership of both Anderson County parties would have to reverse their requests.
“One party declares it partisan, it becomes a partisan race,” he said.
Stephens said his office has no control over the decision. Both parties have until Nov. 19 to submit any changes for the 2022 election season.
Anderson, who has lost an election before, said he would prefer to lose in a landslide than to suddenly become ineligible to serve.
“That would be easier than to be disqualified, kind of on a technicality,” he added.