Upshur County voters choose Davis, Suder in county-level races

BUCKHANNON – Two incumbent magistrates who were appointed in January 2021 got the green light on Tuesday from Upshur County voters to continue in their current posts.

In the May 10 election, incumbent magistrate Mark Davis defeated former Upshur County magistrate Kay Hurst in the nonpartisan race to earn the Division 1 position with 2,117 votes to Hurst’s 1,928. In the same vein, Alan Suder secured the unexpired term as magistrate in Division 2 with 2,882 votes, triumphing over challenger Lindon “Lenny” Stone, who pulled in 1,074 votes.

Davis and Suder were both appointed in January 2021 when then-magistrate Mike Coffman resigned his post to accept the position of chief deputy with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office. Twenty-sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judges Jacob Reger and Kurt Hall tapped Davis to fill the vacancy left by Coffman Jan. 20, 2021, and Hurst, who was the other magistrate at the time, resigned soon after. Suder was subsequently appointed to fill the spot left open by Hurst’s departure.

Both Davis and Suder ran in the May 10 election for unexpired terms that end in 2024, so they’ll be required to run again in two years, should they wish to serve for a full four-year magisterial term.

On the heels of his victory Tuesday night, Suder said serving as a magistrate in Upshur County has long been a dream of his.

“I ran for magistrate in 2004, and the race did not go as expected – I didn’t win – but that was my first race in politics, and then I ran for [Upshur County] Board of Education in 2008 and spent 12 years on the board, or three terms,” Suder said. “This has been a dream of mine. I just love serving the citizens of Upshur County. I was raised to give back and that’s what I will continue to do. I love my community.”

Suder said it was nice to know he has the endorsement of Upshur County voters.

“It gives me a good feeling, with the way the vote turned out and the number of votes,” he said. “I’m not boastful, I’m an ordinary guy, but it makes me feel that I must be doing a good job if the people in the community want to see me continue, and that’s a promise to them that I will.”

Suder said fairness, commonsense and public safety are the values he takes with him into the magistrate courtroom.

“With the magistrate position, sometimes it’s a difficult decision to make and I’m just all about using common sense and doing the right thing,” he said. “You’ve got to be fair and impartial, but common sense has to play into it, too, and trying to keep the community safe.”

Davis said he felt “very blessed and fortunate” to win the Division 1 race.

“It’s great for me because I’ve served this county for a long time, and now I get to continue doing that,” Davis said Wednesday. “I really enjoy doing this. I want to thank all my friends and neighbors and the citizens who supported me. Their votes matter. I’m just very blessed that the people have confidence in me to continue doing what I’m doing.”

Incumbent candidates in other county races were largely unopposed. Upshur County Circuit Clerk Brian Gaudet retained his office with 2,754 votes, as did county commissioner Sam Nolte (2,686 votes) and county clerk Carol Smith (2,748 votes).

Voter turnout for the May 2022 Primary was 31.42 percent, which Smith, the Upshur County clerk, said was average for a Primary mid-term election. Tuesday marked the first election that’s taken place since the West Virginia Legislature completed the redistricting process. For Upshur County, that meant there were 20 precincts instead of 21.

“This was our first election with 20 precincts and it also included all of the district changes, so it was the first time we had one less precinct and the county precincts incorporated all the district changes resulting from redistricting,” Smith said.  

Smith and her staff prepared for the changes by ensuring extra helpers were on hand.

“I had extra people at the precincts that had a lot of people moved into them – mostly precincts 35 and 37 at Union Elementary School. They picked up precinct 33, which added a little over 900 voters split between them,” she said. “I added an extra person to help rove at Precinct 37 because they’re really busy and when I was out there, they said it was really nice having that extra person to help sort ballots and stuff like that.”

A poll worker was also stationed at the entrances of Union Elementary School, Hodgesville Elementary School and French Creek Elementary School to direct anyone who wasn’t aware of the changes, Smith said.

“Everything went pretty smoothly,” she said. “We had a few poll workers who were late but other than that, we didn’t have any major bumps.”                              

Canvassing will take place at 9 a.m. Monday, May 16 at the Upshur County Courthouse. Smith said 14 provisional ballots will be reviewed, and another 13 absentee ballots that had been requested were not yet returned as of Tuesday night.

Election results are unofficial until canvassing is complete. You may view a full list of Primary Election results here.

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