Wednesday, August 8, 2012
While voter turnout was high, margins of victory were low in some of the most hotly contested campaigns in last week’s primary elections.
Of Walker County’s 32,121 registered voters, 11,805 (about 38 percent) cast ballots either during advance voting or by going to the polls on Election Day.
Perhaps most noteworthy were the re-election bids of the county’s sole commissioner and district attorney. Noteworthy not because the incumbents won, but because their margins of victory were razor thin.
“The commissioner’s race is the closest I can remember,” Danielle Montgomery, administrative assistant with the Walker County Board of Elections & Registration, said the day after the election.
Incumbent Bebe Heiskell defeated challenger Dr. Paul Shaw by 211 votes to win re-election to a fourth term as the county’s sole commissioner.
“I couldn’t wait for this day,” Heiskell said shortly after polls closed on election night.
Even closer than the commissioner’s contest was that between incumbent Herbert “Buzz” Franklin and Doug Woodruff to serve as district attorney for the four-county Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit.
Though Woodruff prevailed in Catoosa and Walker counties, voters in Chattooga and Dade counties solidly backed Franklin, which led to his 44 vote — total — margin of victory.
While the local contests are now done, a runoff is necessary to select the District 1 representative to the state Legislature. In that three-way race, Alan Painter had 1,683 (39.8 percent) of votes cast compared to Mike Nowlin’s 1,351 ( 31.9 percent) and John Deffenbaugh’s 1,190 votes (28.2 percent) of all votes cast.
Since no candidate gained 50 percent of votes cast in the district that includes Dade and Walker counties, a runoff between the top two — Painter and Nowlin — is scheduled for Aug. 21.
Early/advance voting proved popular, as nearly one-third of all votes were cast before Election Day.
Of the 3,856 early votes, “We voted just over 1,800 in LaFayette during early voting,” Montgomery said.
The LaFayette Precinct was open for the entire advance voting period but the four satellite centers were only open six days, she said.
Early voting for the runoff will be Aug. 15-17 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and only at the County Courthouse in LaFayette.
Officials estimate the runoff election’s cost at between $8,000 and $10,000.