Proving party lines don't have to stand in the way of friendship, emergency ballot commissioners Democrat Donna Matthews, at right, and Republican Patty Adams, also the chair of the Upshur County Republican Executive Committee, share an embrace as they wait for the results Tuesday night.

Local candidates react to mid-term election results

BUCKHANNON – Election results didn’t trickle in Tuesday night.

They rolled in — in record time — thanks to Upshur County’s new ExpressVote software, Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith said.

Smith, who handily won re-election to her seat, besting her Democratic opponent Yvette Snyder Squires with 5,577 votes to Squires’ 1,863 votes, said Tuesday night’s results were finalized at 8:57 p.m. – the quickest they’ve been available in her memory.

“Generally, we’re not out of here until 11:30 p.m.,” Smith said, “and it will actually get better as everybody gets more familiar with the system. There are some things we need to change as far as processes, and I learned that from going to visit every precinct today. There are a couple of precincts that need tweaked with how they’re set up, but it helped me have a nice visual to sit down and work on that.”

Relative to her own victory, Smith, a Republican, said she’s happy voters see her as an effective, capable clerk.

“I’m pleased that the voters obviously have confidence in my ability to do the job, because I have been here for such a long time, and I’ve seen lots of things,” she said.

Smith attributed her win to developing a rapport with voters across party lines over the years. She first began work in the county clerk’s office in 1998, and following the death of former county clerk Debbie Thacker-Wilfong in December 2016, she was appointed to serve as clerk in January 2017.

In Tuesday’s election, Wilfong’s unexpired term was up for grabs, and it will end in 2022, when a new six-year term will be on the ballot.

Smith’s opponent, Squires, said that despite her loss, she’s grateful for the learning experience campaigning afforded her.

“Obviously, I’m a little disappointed, but I’m sitting here with a smile on my face,” Squires said. “Looking back from February until now, it’s been an amazing experience, and I truly have enjoyed meeting new people and speaking to them. It’s been a learning experience, and I’ve seen how hard the people in the office of the county clerk truly work.”

Squires is an abstractor in the oil and natural gas industry who regularly does research in the county clerk’s office, so she was familiar with the wide range of responsibilities the office handles, she said.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Carol, and I know she’ll do an excellent job,” Squires said.

In the only other county race on the ballot, Republican Kristie Tenney garnered 6,065 votes, defeating unaffiliated candidate Kevin Campbell, who collected 1,178 votes.

It’s been 18 years since a woman occupied a position on the Upshur County Commission, but Tenney’s victory Tuesday changed that.

The last woman to serve on county commission was Joyce Harris-Thacker, who voters first elected to the seat in 1992. Harris-Thacker was appointed to fill the unexpired term when the late Fred Gaudet died in office in 1999. However, when she ran in 2000 for the unexpired term, she was defeated by former mayor and commissioner Kenny Davidson, according to the county clerk’s office.

Tenney, who defeated Troy A. “Buddy” Brady in the May primary, said she set out on the campaign trail hoping to be a faithful servant to her county and community.

“I just want to thank [my supporters] very much for all the support that they gave, whether it was putting signs out or anything that they did,” she said Tuesday evening. “I’m just so thankful for everybody, and those that didn’t vote for me, I will do my very best to represent you in everything that I do.

“I think that you always run a race and do the very best that you can and give it your all, and see what the outcome is, and I am just thankful and blessed for all of the support that I got throughout the campaign.”

When My Buckhannon asked Tenney if she thought she could bring a different perspective to the table as a woman, she laughed and said, “I think so. We’ll see.”

“Overall, honestly, it’s just about representing everybody,” she said. Tenney said she’s prepping to assume her new seat by educating herself on the role and its responsibilities.

Campbell, Tenney’s opponent, said he ran out of a concern for environmental resources like water as well as a desire to see Upshur County become less dependent on fossil fuels.

“I felt it was really important that somebody in this county be concerned about safety of our water,” Campbell said. “All (economic) growth in this county needs to take the environment into consideration. I also want to see this county move toward being a lot more self-sufficient in terms of the generation of its own power, and I think with some of the people I’m allied with, that could happen within the next six years.”

“I learned a lot about the process that I didn’t know,” he added. “I had no idea about the steps you had to take to run as an independent candidate with no party affiliation, and I had hoped that that would actually make a difference in this county, but disappointingly, it didn’t.”

Election results streamed into the courthouse at a record rate Tuesday night.

On the state level, Republican Carl “Robbie” Martin defeated Democrat Matthew Kerner in the race for House of Delegates 45th District, amassing 3,979 votes to Kerner’s 1,893.

When the final numbers came in, Martin said he was slightly surprised at how high his were.

“I’m a little bit surprised at my numbers – they’re a little bit higher than the numbers I was polling,” he said. “I got 67 percent, and I was consistently polling at 58 percent.”

Martin credited his win to his values being in alignment with the majority of the county’s residents.

“We have a conservative county, and I have conservative values, and I stayed on my point, on my message, and the voters agreed,” he said. “I ran a positive campaign the whole time, and I did not mudsling once, so I also think that has something to do with it.”

Martin said he plans to prepare for his new position by talking with teachers.

“My first thing, before I get down to Charleston, is I’m going to be trying to meet with groups of teachers,” he said. “I want to see what they have to say on certain laws that they feel hinder them from teaching. That’s my biggest thing is education, and I cannot wait to get with them. They’re the ones in the trenches every day, and they’re the ones that can see some of the issues.”

Despite coming up short, Kerner said he’s already eyeing another run for the 45th District in 2020 when he can challenge Martin’s record.

“This was pretty much a straight-party line deal,” Kerner said. “I was taken out 2-1, and that’s exactly what the voter registration told us. It is what it is. I’ll try figure out what’s next, and I want to come back into this race in two years when he’s got a record to run against. He has no record now.”

Kerner said regardless of the results, he learned a great deal about how to run a campaign.

“I probably need to do a better job next time of organizing volunteers and really managing that better,” he said, “and I really need to do a better job of clearing my calendar [to focus on the campaign].”

Del. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, said he appreciates the continual support from Upshur County voters – as well as the graciousness of his Democratic opponent, Laura Finch. Hamilton racked up 23,534 votes to Finch’s 9,872 as he moves from the House to the Senate.

Late Tuesday night, Hamilton said Finch had already called him and conceded, despite some counties in the 11th District having yet to report their tallies.

“It’s a satisfying win,” he said. “I couldn’t have had a better opponent. She is a good lady. She’s an attorney in Marlinton. She’s a good opponent; she kept it clean. That’s my motto – even when I get negative [campaigning] against me, I just keep up here.”

Smith said although Upshur County’s 56.81 percent voter turnout was “great” for a mid-term – 7,648 voters cast ballots – she had predicted the percentage to be more than 10 percent higher based on early voting and absentee ballot returns.

“For a mid-term, it’s great,” she said. “But actually, as the clerk it should be 100 percent is how I feel, because you should go vote. Everybody should vote. Your voice should be heard.”

In the 44th District of House of Delegates, Patrick Martin (3,880 votes) defeated Robert “Bob” Stultz (2,430). Meanwhile, on the national level, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (288,808 votes) beat W.Va. attorney general Patrick Morrisey (269,872 votes) for West Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat, and Republican Alex Mooney (109,018 votes) bested Democrat Talley Sergent (86,678 votes) for the 2nd District U.S. House of Delegates seat, according to the W.Va. Secretary of State’s website.

Statewide — and in Upshur Count — both Amendment 1, pertaining to abortion and reproductive rights, and Amendment 2, calling for more oversight of the state judiciary’s finances, were ratified by voters.

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