Insiders expected that state Rep. Matthew Hill would draw an opponent in the Republican primary as a result of his switching his vote and delaying passage of the wine in grocery stores bill for a year. Not only does he have a credible opponent, the challenger is reporting more money in campaign contributions than the five-term incumbent.
Former Johnson City Commissioner Phil Carringer reported contributions of more than $77,000 at the end of the last reporting period, compared to $53,000 for Hill. The totals thus far already exceed what might normally be spent in a House race and the election isn't until August. Hill's fund-raising was hampered because a member cannot raise money during session.
Hill was chair of the committee that, in 2013, killed the wine in grocery stores bill, and his vote was the deciding one. He had earlier voiced support for the bill and the switch angered House and Senate leadership. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a proponent of the bill, is in adjoining Sullivan County, and the headquarters of Food City, a leader in the supermarket fight, is just up the road. Some suspect these two factors account for Carringer's fund-raising prowess.
The bill eventually passed this session and wine in groceries will be allowed in 2016.