Dutton, Tucker head for PJ runoff

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A runoff will be held on July 17 between attorneys John Mark Dutton Lee Tucker of Sumiton and attorney John Mark Dutton of Jasper in the wake of the results from Tuesday's Republican primary for Walker County probate judge. 

According to unofficial results released from the county, Dutton obtained 4,964 votes, or 37 percent, versus 4,534 votes, or 34 percent, for Tucker. A third candidate, Walker County Chief Deputy Dayron Bridges of Jasper, had 3,903 votes, or 29 percent. 

No Democrats are in the race and no independents are running, leaving the nominee of the party to face only write-in votes on the Nov. 6 General Election. 

The candidates are vying to replace Rick Allison, who is retiring from the position. 

In campaign contribution reports, Tucker was shown to have raised $7,400 and also gave himself more than $4,000. Bridges raised $3,700, out of which $1,500 was given to himself. Dutton had one $250 donation. 

While no beat results were released that night, Tucker had led in periodic announced results, followed by Dutton, with Dutton surging ahead in the end. Bridges was in third place throughout the evening. 

After the final results were announced at the Jasper Civic Center, Dutton said, "I feel fantastic. I am real proud of the results." He said he was proud that the Walker County Republican Party had allowed him to run for this position. 

"I really am fortunate with the two candidates I ran against," Dutton said. "They are great guys. I think we ran a very clean race. I couldn't say more about either of those two guys." 

He wished the best to Bridges. "He is a great man and he ran a great campaign. It was all very close. I'm just ready to be in the final stretch now."

Asked if the results show that people wanted a lawyer for probate judge, he said he heard that desire on the campaign trail.

"I believe that was part of the outcome of the results. I think people realize this is a position that a lawyer should hold. I believe that did affect a large number of the votes directed at myself and Mr. Tucker." 

Tucker, asked for his reaction, said, "There is a lot of hard work ahead of us so we can get over the hump. I think we can get this done." He said he was pleased in the runoff, even though he hoped to be first. 

"I ready to get this thing going," he said. 

Bridges could not be reached after the results were announced. 

Tucker and Dutton have both been advocating that a lawyer would be best to be in the position. 

Dutton said recently while many realize the office deals with licenses, tags and elections, many don't realize the judicial cases, which are like cases litigated in circuit and district courts. He pointed out the guardianships, conservatorships, probate of estates, adoptions, name changes and commitments. 

"Some of these cases can be very involved and can include hearings that are tried over a period of several days with multiple complex issues being litigated," he said. "These type of cases require a judge to preside over them with the training, experience and expertise to manage and maneuver through the many issues, and make rulings on very procedural and evidentiary matters that may or will arise." 

Bridges said  the office is "designed for an educated, everyday man with common, everyday sense," adding people like that have held the job, including the retiring incumbent, Rick Allison. "I want to follow in his footsteps. I think he has done a good job there." 

He also noted he had overseen 90 Sheriff's Department employees, compared to 17 in the Probate Office. The Sheriff's Office has a $5.4 million budget, versus less than $1 million for the Probate Office, he said.

Tucker, who has run a law office for 34 years, said while he said while the Probate Office needs a common man to be there, "it also needs more skills than that." He said he had experience in cases such as adoptions, guardianships and administrations over estates. 

"I've got current cases going in six different counties at this point dealing with probate matters," he said. "I know how that office works. I know how the law works" in that office.