BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Republicans swept to landslide victories in all four contested races for Upshur County elective offices Tuesday of last week in a mid-term general election which drew an unusually high turnout of more than half the county’s registered voters.
Three Upshur County school districts–New Diana, Harmony and Union Grove–also held school board elections, and all but one incumbent who was running were returned to office. The county also followed the statewide trend of giving GOP candidates majorities in all statewide and district races on the ballot here, although Upshur voters gave U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a much larger percentage of the vote (82.45) than he won statewide in his narrow victory over Democrat Robert (Beto) O’Rourke.
More than 14,000 of the county’s 27,528 voters–about 51 percent–cast ballots in the election, including well more than 8,000 who voted before election day, according to County Election Administrator Lory Harle’s office. During the early voting, Harle said she had expected nowhere near the number of pre-election day votes which were cast.
Three county officeholders–County Clerk Terri Ross, District Clerk Karen Bunn and County Treasurer Brandy Vick–trounced Democrats in the incumbents’ respective bids for re-election to second terms, while Republican Dustin Nicholson bested Democrat Jurel N. White in the race for the Precinct 2 county commissioner’s seat being vacated by the retiring Don Gross.
All the winners received more than 80 percent of the vote except Nicholson, who had 79.94 percent as the Democrats fielded their first candidates for county office here in several years. All county elective officials are Republicans, and several GOP candidates were re-elected or newly-elected to some other county offices without opposition.
Ross won over Claudette Bennett, 11,580 to 2,227 while Bunn defeated Joyce Peoples, 11,296 to 2,491 and Vick topped Henrietta Smith, 11,528 to 2,274. Nicholson defeated White, 2,498 to 627
In the New Diana ISD board race, which included part of Harrison County, one incumbent was re-elected over an opponent, one was defeated for re-election, and another was re-elected without opposition.
Unofficial returns showed T.J. Shafer apparently narrowly winning the Position 2 seat with 425 to 419 for Kenneth C. Rhodes and 357 for incumbent Andrew J. Wright. Wright had led the other two men in early balloting.
When contacted by this newspaper Monday to see if a recount might be held, a spokeswoman for New Diana ISD said the board was scheduled to canvass the election returns that night and “from there, we’ll have more information.”
In the other New Diana results, Position 4 incumbent Karen Holt easily defeated Barry Ward, 914-319, while unopposed Position 5 trustee Dwayne Leach drew 1,144.
At Harmony, a race which included part of Wood County, all three at-large incumbents were re-elected while the lone non-incumbent was defeated.
Winners included Chad D. Wade with 670, Michael Pool with 626 and Jeremy Seahorn with 604. Defeated was John H. Allen Jr. with 212.
In the only contested race in Union Grove ISD, Place 1 incumbent Kelly Chambliss defeated challenger Mallory Dippold Shelton, 485 to 298. Three unopposed incumbents, Place 2 trustee Jeff Webb, Place 4 member Tim Turner Jr. and Place 5 trustee Bennie Norris, received, respectively, 695, 675 and 715 votes.
School trustees in the three districts are elected for 4-year terms.
Cruz, who had about 51 percent of the vote statewide in nearly complete returns, carried Upshur County with 11,517 to O’Rourke’s 2,361 and Libertarian Neal M. Dikeman’s 90.
The two GOP Congressmen representing the county, Louie Gohmert and John Ratcliffe, also carried the county by large margins, as did GOP Gov. Greg Abbott.