Two years after a new mayor and three new members swept onto the Danville City Commission, there was another big shakeup Tuesday night. In the other closely watched Boyle County election, incumbent Mike Harmon held his ground for the 54th District state House seat.
On a day when voter turnout in the county topped 62 percent — 12,462 of 20,099 registered voters turned out or cast absentee ballots — city voters swept incumbents J.H. Atkins (3,738) and Kevin Caudill (3,278) back into office. They will be joined by Paul Smiley (2,839) and top vote-getter Paige Stevens (3,954).
Sitting commissioners Gail Louis (2,235) and Ryan Montgomery (1,842) and former commissioner Janet Hamner (2,703) went down in defeat.
Kevin Caudill was the one commissioner to survive heavy turnover on the body during the 2010 elections when Louis, Montgomery and Mayor Bernie Hunstad were victorious. He said he has high hopes that the new commission will be able to work together after two years characterized by long, contentious meetings and several controversial 3-2 votes, on which Caudill and Atkins were usually the minority.
“I’m confident this commission will go in with that mindset,” Caudill said.
Caudill was one of only a couple City Commission candidates who awaited the election results in person at the Boyle County Courthouse. The other was Hamner, who didn't immediately concede defeat because of a discrepancy between the official totals and the numbers some of her supporters had recorded manually as they were read by Boyle Sheriff Marty Elliott.
Four members of the group, independent of one another, had written a total for Smiley that was exactly 200 votes less than the amount shown in the electronic register. The totals they had written down were 2,639 for Smiley to Hamner's 2,705.
Boyle County Clerk Trille Bottom said the total shown on the register, and projected on a wall in the clerk's office as results came in, came directly from data cards taken from the voting machines. Hamner, however, initially said she was looking into asking for a recount based on the consistency of the numbers various people came up with contradicting those totals.
In the end, though, a review of the printed tape from which Elliott read the totals showed a Streamland precinct total for Smiley of 229 that had been written down by those listening to Elliott as 29. It was unclear whether Elliott had misspoken or the number had been written incorrectly, but Hamner said late Tuesday she was satisfied by the explanation.
54th District State Representative
Republican Mike Harmon, the incumbent in the 54th District House race, held off Boyle County Jailer Barry Harmon to win a return to the legislature for a fifth term.
Mike Harmon carried Boyle County by the slim margin of 6,278 to 5,911, but pulled away decisively in Washington County, which he carried 3,204 to 1,900.
It was another triumph for Mike Harmon in a district that has tilted only slightly from around 30 percent Republican since his first successful run in 2002. He said he was happy to survive another election where he was doubted and outspent by a substantial margin.
“It was a hard fought race and we were able to persevere, despite having a lot of money spent against me,” Harmon said. “A lot of people came together to work hard for us, going door-to-door, doing what it took.”
Barry Harmon had counted on his ability to appeal to the Boyle voters who already knew him from 10 years as jailer and woo new supporters in the county where the church he pastors, New Harmony Baptist is located.
“It’s a letdown,” Harmon said. “That’s the normal, human emotion you have. But I will keep doing what I’m doing, and I like what I do. That’s the way it goes in life sometimes.”
While state and local Democrats poured money into his campaign coffers, and groups bought television advertising against the incumbent, Barry Harmon had staked his campaign on strong ground game and relentless door-knocking by a tag team that included his wife Patsy. He said he was proud of the race he was able to run, but in the end incumbency and the foment of unhappiness with Democrats higher up the ticket likely were too much to overcome.
“He’s an incumbent and I’ve been (incumbent) as jailer so I know how that is. With Obama, it brought Republicans out and they rallied against him. I have to give them credit. They really got out and voted.”
While Barack Obama racked up electoral votes from states rich with them, it was a tough day for the president and Democrats at the state level. In a district where Republican registration has actually climbed to about 35 percent, 52 percent of those who voted on a straight party ticket were Republican.