HUNTSVILLE — By the close of polls on Monday, three days into the two-week early voting period, nearly 1,200 Scott Countians had already cast ballots for the Aug. 2 general election, including a record-breaking first-day tally.
According to Administrator of Elections Gabe Krahn, some 1,197 ballots had been cast by Monday afternoon, a combination of voters who appeared in person at the Oneida and Huntsville polling places beginning Friday morning, and paper ballots that had been received by mail.
A total of 490 registered voters turned out to submit their votes on Friday, the first day of the early voting period. That was a record turnout for the opening day of early voting in Scott County, beating the old record of 457, set in 2014.
The large opening-day turnout may not necessarily be indicative of how many Scott Countians will vote in the early voting period. Despite setting opening-day turnout records in 2010 and 2014, Scott County saw its total early vote decline in both of those election cycles from the overall record early voter turnout, which was set in 2006.
Still, with several hotly-contested races on the ballot at the county-wide and district levels, overall voter turnout is expected to be relatively high this year. The 2010 and 2014 elections each saw a voter turnout of 54 percent; the 2018 total could push closer to 60 percent, astute local political observers have opined.
After Friday’s brisk day of polling, some 255 voters turned out on Saturday. That number dipped slightly to 245 on Monday.
By the close of polls on Monday, a total of 990 voters had already cast ballots in person, while another 207 had been cast by absentee voters, which includes nursing home residents.
Ratcheting up voter interest in the 2018 election are contested races for virtually every county-level constitutional office up for grabs. Only County Attorney John Beaty and Circuit Court Clerk Donnie Phillips are without competition.
Phillips’ twin brother, Ronnie Phillips, is uncontested on the ballot in his bid for re-election as Scott County’s sheriff. However, former sheriff Anthony Lay, who missed the qualifying deadline by two days according to a ruling by the Tennessee P.O.S.T. Commission, is mounting a write-in campaign.
Incumbent county mayor Dale Perdue, who is likewise seeking a second term, is facing opposition from a quartet of opponents, including former mayor Jeff Tibbals, career military veteran Michael Lloyd, Oneida businessman Harold Brooks and current county commissioner Rick Russ, who is a paramedic at the Scott County Ambulance Service.
A trio of retiring county officials have set off a series of contested races elsewhere, with two people battling to replace Dick Sexton as road superintendent, five seeking to succeed Benjie Rector as register of deeds and six looking to follow in Pat Phillips’ footsteps as county clerk.
In the road superintendent race, Winfield’s Kelvin King — a long-time supervisor under Sexton at the road department — is opposed by Oneida contractor Dale Boyatt, who narrowly lost to Sexton in the 2014 election.
The trustee’s race finds current deputy clerk Ashley Riseden, who has been endorsed by Rector, opposed by former Oneida Verizon store manager Stuart Jones, who is currently a district representative for Samsung; Oneida businessman Kevin Bilbrey; Mary Hall, who is a former employee of the trustee’s office; and ambulance service employee Chris Wilson.
The clerk’s race sees Phillips’ niece, Felicia Bilbrey, who has been endorsed by Phillips, battling with former clerk’s office employee Christin Neal; Sandi Chambers, who has worked in various county government offices; long-time health department employee Pat Massengale; Oneida businessman Mark Matthews; and Oneida Sonic manager Peggy Duncan.
At the district level, several contested battles for County Commission’s 14 seats are shaping up. In fact, only two districts feature candidates without competition. Incumbent Patti Brown is likely to be re-elected in the 6th District of Oneida, and likely to be joined by past candidate and ETHRA driver Donnie Bowlin, as those are the only two candidates on the ballot there. In the 3rd District of Huntsville, meanwhile, incumbent Sheila Buttram and former commissioner Kenny Morrow are the only candidates on the ballot.
Things heat up considerably in some of the other districts, perhaps most notably in the 2nd District. There, incumbent Sam Lyles is joined on the ballot by a host of others. Among them are former commissioner Leonard Bertram, who served several terms before opting against another run in 2010; Jerried Jeffers, a Sheriff’s Department sergeant who is the son of retiring commissioner June Jeffers; Don Tyndall and David Woodard, who had strong showings in the 2014 election; and political newcomer Jennifer Honeycutt Dishman of the Low Gap community.
The 7th District commission race also promises to be close; incumbents Rick Burke and Mike Slaven are opposed by Benny B. Carson and Michael Knight.
One of the most crowded fields is seen in the 1st District, where incumbent David “Blue” Day is on the ballot along with former commissioner David Jeffers, past candidate Robert “Speedy” Blevins, Randall Hamilton, Ledford Harness, Jacob Hughett and Jason Jeffers.
In the 4th District, incumbent Kenny Chadwell is one of four candidates on the ballot, along with Shonda Gray, James “Bud” Lackey and Fred Phillips.
In the 5th District, appointed incumbent Paul Strunk, who was appointed by the commission to fill the unexpired term of Trent Cross, who resigned earlier this year, is on the ballot with two others: former commissioner Harold Chambers and Joe Tramell Jr.
There is guaranteed to be at least six new faces on the commission, with several incumbents not seeking re-election. Those not running include Eric Newport in the 1st District, Jeffers in the 2nd District, Ernest Phillips in the 3rd District, Rick Russ in the 4th District, Robyn McBroom in the 5th District and Robin Newman in the 6th District.
Things are somewhat quieter in the county school board races. Incumbent Tommy Silcox is unopposed in his re-election bid in the 1st District, and incumbent Kimberly Kidd has one challenger — Johnny Russ — in the 4th District. Likewise, incumbent Esther Abbott has one opponent — Jim McDonald — in the 5th District. In the 7th District, Sharon Hall Marcum and Derek Sexton are squaring off in a bid to replace John V. Thompson Sr., who is retiring from the board. Marcum is the sister of director of schools Bill Hall, while Sexton is a school resource officer assigned to Burchfield School in the 7th District with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office.
In Oneida, three seats on the special school district board of education are being sought by five candidates. Incumbents Brom Shoemaker and Dorothy Watson are joined on the ballot by women’s shelter director Shonda Duncan, retired educator Sandy West Martin, and Oneida businessman Jason Perry. Matthews is an incumbent on the board but passed up an opportunity for re-election in order to seek election to the clerk’s office.
Registered voters can cast ballots at the Oneida Municipal Services Building or the Scott County Office Building in Huntsville during the early voting period. A voter registration card and photo ID are required. Polling hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
The final day to vote before the Aug. 2 election day is Saturday, July 28.
If this election cycle follows recent trends, about 55 percent of those who vote in the 2018 election will cast their ballots during the early voting period.