The state attorney general has issued an opinion (AGO 09-167) addressing the question of whether deputy sheriffs who run for sheriff (without first resigning their deputy position) violate any state or federal law.
If the deputy sheriff's position or duties are in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants, then the federal Hatch Act would prohibit him from running for the office of sheriff unless he first resigned from employment as a deputy sheriff.
Additionally, a deputy sheriff in a county that has adopted the County Sheriff's Civil Service Law of 1974 is prohibited from making an endorsement of any candidate in any campaign for elected office. A deputy sheriff's announcement of his or her candidacy for the office of sheriff would constitute an endorsement of that candidacy. Accordingly, the deputy sheriff would be in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. Section 8-8-419 unless he or she first resigned from employment.
The complete opinion is here
This Tennessee AG's opinion could have implications for the current sheriff's race in Hamblen County as well as other counties. The Tennessee attorney general has opined that certain deputy sheriffs can not continue to serve as a deputy sheriff and run for sheriff at the same time. The AG's opinion is generally considered as persuasive authority, but it does not have the force of law. If a candidate for sheriff somewhere decides that he or she wants to challenge the right of a particular deputy sheriff to run for the sheriff's office, this AG's opinion may end up being tested in a court of law.