Incumbents dominate county-wide election

By THOMAS P. WEAVER

HORIZON Editor

CLAY COUNTY-All of the current office-holders who made a bid for re-election retained their seats here in this year’s general election, despite having been challenged well by their opponents and a few having to survive very close races.

Only a pair of new faces will take office next month thanks to two seats being vacated by the retiring county clerk Pat Hix and current sheriff James Story, who also decided not to seek re-election.

The seven major offices up for grabs included the two left open, county mayor, trustee, circuit court clerk, register of deeds, and road superintendent.

Watson wins county clerk

As the most crowded county-wide race, the local county clerk battle may have drawn the most interest from voters with nine candidates vying for the office vacated by Hix–who had held the seat since 1986, but according to the numbers the race came down to three candidates in the end who accounted for well over half of the total vote.

Donna Watson came out victorious with a convincing 235-vote margin over second-place finisher Chris Hix, the son of the retiring current officeholder, and Kevin Sweezy finished in third place.

Those closely following the race felt only a fraction of the 908 votes Watson secured would be needed to win the seat, but speculators were wrong as the balloting showed her finishing with nearly 25 percent of the vote–leaving Hix well behind with a total of 673, and she nearly doubled up the next closest challenger, Kevin Sweezy, who received 471 votes.

Boone to be new sheriff

Brandon Boone claimed convincing victory here in the sheriff’s race as he received over 65 percent of the total vote to dominate former sheriff Jerry Rhoton and stake his claim as the county’s top law officer.

Boone, who has served as chief deputy under Rhoton and current sheriff Story since 2003, ran away with the race getting almost twice as many votes as his former boss.

The race wasn’t even close with Boone securing 2,428 votes–the second highest vote total countywide for any candidate, compared to Rhoton’s 1,215.

Reagan is still mayor despite very close race

County mayor Dale Reagan will continue his work here for another four years after fending off a pair of tough challengers in this year’s election.

Former county executive Coell Hickman and local entrepreneur Tom Weir both lead valiant campaigns, but they just came up short of unseating Reagan.

Five men were actually vying for the office, but Reagan, Hickman, and Weir combined for nearly 95 percent of the vote, making it a three-man race.

Reagan’s total of 1,241 votes outdistanced second-place finisher Hickman’s tally of 1,140 by just over 100 votes, and Weir came in 114 votes behind Hickman with a total of 1,026.

Garrison keeps office, but sees good challenge

Veteran county road superintendent Ernest Garrison will serve in that capacity for another term, but victory didn’t come without a challenge.

Newcomer Jason Browning made a respectable run at the position, but Garrision held off his challenger by good margin of over 300 votes.

Browning actually beat Garrison in the election day totals, 790 to 770, but the long-time public servant’s supporters made their presence known during early voting–where the seat was won.

Garrison had 1,159 early votes, which was 325 more than Browning received.  That margin ended up being the deciding factor in the race.

Browning retains register seat with good run by others

Incumbent register of deeds Brenda Browning retained her seat here in the election despite facing a good run by a pair of candidates.

Kim Tucker, who finished second, and Peggy Brown ran good campaigns and challenged Browning for the position.

The longtime register secured over 47 percent of the vote to win, but Tucker and Brown finished with respectable totals in the race.

Browning won by well over 500 votes, while Tucker claimed over 30 percent of the vote and Brown finished with just over 20 percent of the total ballots cast in the race.

Circuit court clerk won by Birdwell by a good margin

Susan Birdwell will have the chance to serve a second term as circuit court clerk thanks to a good margin of victory over her closest challenger, Monica Watson-Hayes.

Birdwell was one of only three candidates to break the 2,000-mark in total votes garnering nearly 60 percent of the total vote in her race.

Watson-Hayes was the race’s runner-up with almost 35 percent of the vote.  Birdwell was also challenged by Randall Killman.

Charlie Key leading vote-getter for the second time

Incumbent trustee Charlie Key tallied overwhelming support for the second straight election getting a total of 2,614 votes in 2010, after notching a few more than that four years ago.

He defeated challenger Larry Denton after receiving well over 75 percent of the vote.  Key will serve his fourth term thanks to his convincing victory at the polls.