Rutherford Co. candidate still running after losing primary - WSMV News 4

Rutherford Co. candidate still hopes to be elected even after losing primary

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Matt Harvey is running for Rutherford County District 6 commissioner. Matt Harvey is running for Rutherford County District 6 commissioner.
MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

A local candidate who lost the Republican primary for Rutherford County District 6 commissioner is still hoping to be elected, even though his name won't appear on the ballot.

Incumbent Commissioner Joe Frank Jernigan won the primary over Murfreesboro police Officer Matt Harvey by less than 100 votes.

"When we lost by 74 votes, I thought it was done," Harvey said.

He even starting taking down campaign signs.

"More people came to me again saying, 'You can still do this, you can be a write-in, you can still make a difference, you can still make that change,'" Harvey said. "That's why I put my name back in as a write-in candidate."

Over the next two weeks, Harvey started sending out campaign mailers as a write-in candidate.

The mailers are critical of Jernigan.

One is asking voters, "Who would you rather vote for, a pillar of the community or an admitted thief and liar?" referring to the arrest of Jernigan after accusing him of stealing his campaign signs.

The homeowner whose yard the signs were in took photos of Jernigan removing them and putting them in a county-issued vehicle. Jernigan resigned his position with the Rutherford County Highway Department shortly after he was arrested.

"As far as the theft goes, we got him caught," Harvey said. "We've got pictures of him, we've got video, we've got signatures, we've got witnesses to show he was there doing what he was doing, and also doing it on the dime of the taxpayer."

The mailer even uses part of Jernigan's statement to officers about the incident.

"It's an excerpt from his statement to detectives that actually says, 'I put Matt Harvey signs in my trunk and drove off,'" Harvey said.

One mailer is also critical of Jernigan's voting record on taxes and the controversial mosque.

"I have all the proof to be able to make those accusations," the write-in candidate said.

Harvey's name won't appear on the ballot. If a person wants to vote for him, they will have to press the write-in button and physically type in his name.

"Getting them to the polls is one thing, but then getting them to the poll and remembering how to spell your name exactly right when you get to the ballot station is what makes it hard," he said.

Jernigan's court hearing in General Sessions Court on the sign theft charges has been moved until after the election, something Harvey doesn't agree with.

The county's policies don't address removal of sitting commissioners if they are arrested or accused of a crime, County Mayor Ernest Burgess told Channel 4 in a previous interview.

"I think everybody's just a little worried with the outcome pending and what might happen if he gets found guilty of the charge," Harvey said.

Harvey said he knows this write-in campaign is going to be an uphill battle. He said he was told the last time a write-in candidate won an election in Tennessee was back in the 1960s.

Channel 4 News reached out to Jernigan for comment on this story, but calls were not returned.

Early voting in Rutherford County begins Friday and continues through Aug. 2.

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