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Close race ends in victory for incumbent as supporters pour out on election night

After receiving word of his re-election to the 7th District State House seat in the Aug. 7 election, Rep. Matthew Hill first attributed his win to the hard work of the dedicated people who supported him.
“I want to say ‘Thank you’ very much to the families of Washington County,” Hill told a crowd gathered at the AmericInn in Jonesborough Thursday night to hear the results of the Tennessee Republican Primary. “Thank you to every single person in Washington County (who supported me.)
He went on to thank local teachers, firefighters, dental hygienists and more.
“Caleb (Hill’s son) told me if I lost, I could become a coal miner,” Hill continued. Now, he said, with no other qualified name on the ballot for November, that won’t be necessary.
Hill won Thursday night by defeating challenger Phil Carriger by a more than 700-vote margin, with 3,966 votes to 3,214. Todd Franklin, also on the ballot, only earned 265 votes.
In a race that was at times highly contentious — complete with negative ads and accusations to spare — in the end Hill believed that his record and his relationships with the voters were what carried the election.
“I think the voters got tired of the negative campaigning,” Hill said. “In the end, they looked at both sides and made a decision.”
In addition, “I really think it was the grass roots — communication, one-on-one, with the people that made the difference.”
Hill also saw his win as a win against Tennessee’s established GOP groups and local media versus individual voters.
“The vast majority of Washington County said ‘No’ to the establishment,” he said.
Hill will be returning to Nashville for a sixth term. His toughest challenger to date may have been Carriger, a retired Washington County banker and former Johnson City commissioner, who threw down the gauntlet in late 2013 and was considered an early favorite by several anti-Hill groups.
In the end however, Hill’s supporters turned out in sufficient number to guarantee the win. Carriger, questioned election night, said he has no plans to run again.
“I worked as hard as I could,” Carriger said. “In the morning, I’m still going to have my family and I’m still going to have my friends.’’
Hill said he is eager to return to Nashville to do the work entrusted to him by his constituents.
“I promise to continue to fight for your values,” Hill said. “My number one job is to be a voice for the 7th District.”