Whew! What an election night in Washington County.
It was truly was one for the books (and not necessarily in a good way).
While Tuesday’s Republican Primary for sheriff came down to the wire, it wasn’t incumbent Ed Graybeal’s 13-vote victory over Craig Ford that was the talk around the Washington County Courthouse. No, it was the results from a County Commission race that created the most drama of the evening.
Returns posted on the Washington County Election Commission website showed Jonesborough incumbent Mark Ferguson leading the race to be one of three Republican nominees in the 6th District. It seemed quite a showing for someone who had been the target of a heated and expensive campaign by a Political Action Committee to unseat him.
In the end, however, it was just an illusion created by human error. As Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reports in today’s paper, Election Commission officials say there was a mistake made by a technician with the voting machine’s manufacturer, Microvote, which failed to save election-night computer changes made to correct a problem with Ferguson and candidate Tom Foster’s names being inverted in the system. The result was the website showed votes that should have been tallied for Foster instead going to Ferguson.
County Elections Administrator Maybell Stewart said the Election Commission was not at fault for the error. Even so, many of those who were at the courthouse Tuesday night tell us they wish the Election Commission had communicated the problem earlier and better to a crowd that had become convinced a conspiracy was afoot.
The true results of the 6th District were finally sorted out early Wednesday, with Foster leading all candidates with 1,606 votes, followed by Tom Krieger with 1,521 votes and Joe Grandy with 1,510 votes. Incumbents Ferguson, with 703 votes, and Gerald Sparks, with 552 votes, failed to make the Republican field.
With incumbent Dan Eldridge securing the GOP nomination for county mayor, and a number of his fiercest opponents on the County Commission (Ferguson, Sparks, Doyle Cloyd, Roger Nave and Alpha Bridger) losing their bids for re-election, it looks as if the divisiveness that has engulfed county politics during the past five years may finally be at an end. There are still some decisions to be made in the county’s Aug. 7 election, but we are confident the new County Commission and the county mayor will at last be able to work together.
We’ve had enough drama involving the County Commission.