Loudon County voters will find more Independent candidates on the August ballot than at any time in recent memory.
The six Independents running for positions ranging from County Commission to General Sessions judge represent a shift. For the past 30 years, Loudon County has voted heavily Republican, with few Democrats and even fewer Independents on the ballots.
Independents do not enjoy the support of an organized party, said election Commissioner Susan Harrison, but running as an Independent does have its advantages, including not having to campaign for the primary.
"They're guaranteed to be on the ballot in August," she said.
The candidates themselves claim that there is a lot more to running as an Independent than just campaign strategy.
For Pat Hunter, her candidacy for County Commission's 5th District, Seat B, is all about not being a part of the system.
"As an Independent candidate I won't be under pressure to keep secrets, not discuss the issues or go along with partisan politics," she said.
Hunter has followed the beat of an independent drum for years.
When she wasn't satisfied with the local news coverage of county government, she created The Hunter Report, a popular Loudon County website that offers news, opinion and video clips from county government meetings.
Her role on County Commission would be to extend her philosophy to county government.
"My main concern will be looking out for the best interests of the taxpayers, encouraging citizen participation and open government." she said.
Sarah Dailey, an Independent candidate for County Commission's 1st District, Seat B, is also somewhat of an activist. She set up the Loudon County Schools Solutions website to bring more attention to the need to improve the county's schools.
"Personally, running Independent is an opportunity to represent the best interests of taxpayers without political commitments or pressures from either local party," she said.
Hunter and Dailey support the senior property tax freeze. Despite the fact that the majority of Loudon county voters were in favor of the tax freeze, County Commission has failed to support it. Both see the issue as another case where the established parties have ignored the will of the voters.
"The judicial role is by definition a neutral position," she said.
Independent Mary K. Longworth is also running for sessions judge and agrees that the role of judge should be nonpartisan. Longworth also noted that she works full time as a private-practice attorney and does not have the time to run a six-month campaign. Running as an Independent gave her the option to skip the primary and cut the campaign down a few months, she said.
Robert Dishner is running as an Independent for County Commission's 5th District, Seat A. Dishner said he's never voted along party lines so he didn't see the need to run as a representative of a specific party.
"I'll vote based on what I think is good for the taxpayers," he said.
The sixth candidate running as an Independent, Daryl Miller in the County Commission 2nd District, Seat A, race, could not be reached for comment.
Hugh G. Willett is a freelance contributor to the News Sentinel.