Jasper area votes for Underwood; county goes big for Smith


Well, I am so turned around and filled up with politics, like most of you — and not for just the usual reasons you suspect. For example, I spent 90 minutes Tuesday in a warm room watching provisionals being counted, which is like watching paint drying. I went back and wrote a 35-inch story or so, and with minutes to spare to get to the Gerald Dial event, something happened on the computer and I almost lost the whole story.  We found it, but  then in racing to the Dial event, the car wouldn't start, thanks to a dead battery.

If the Russians want the system so bad, they can have it. I'm toast. (The weekend after the election, I all but hibernated in my apartment to rest.) 

There is not much to say about the provisionals except that they were handled well Tuesday, and that Nick Smith got sooooooo close to avoiding a runoff for sheriff, by two or three votes, depending on whether you rounded figures at one point. To think one of the voters didn’t even vote in that race! I (and others online) had to wonder what Sheriff Jim Underwood meant by the influence of outside people, although I figured it might have to do with campaign finances. (It usually does, and Smith seemed to have great support from contributions and in-kind services.)

Then I found out that in a release this week concerning recent arrests, Underwood made this statement: "While the citizens are reading over this press release, I want you to think about something.  On May 15th, Charles Bishop got up in front of the Jasper City Council at their council meeting, pleading his case about the drug problem in this county.  Then two weeks later, he’s on the radio station bashing us for rounding up drug dealers.

"I can understand him not being aware of our work product the last 4 years, because he spends most of his time in places other than in Walker County.  However, you have to ask yourself why he’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth. I can tell you why, he doesn’t run the Office of the Sheriff, and that obviously doesn’t sit well with him.'"

Well, that is clear as crystal!

Meanwhile, with Steven Shaver supporting Smith at this point, Underwood will have to work like the dickens to catch up. And Smith and Underwood will have to keep enthusiasm high in a runoff, which is not easy. 

Looking at the boxes, Shaver — who admitted he did not campaign much — only got 651 votes, or about 5 percent of the vote with no box wins, but it was likely enough to spoil Smith’s parade; it was about the margin between Smith and Underwood, in fact. Shaver had a good, thoughtful platform. (Smith has noted in a statement on Facebook since that he thinks Shaver had some good ideas and has talked with him.) 

Meanwhile, Smith won 25 boxes to Underwood’s 21 boxes. In the towns where Smith has been a police chief, he had at 504-278 win in Cordova and a 323-220 win in Parrish; Nauvoo was 133-81 for Smith. He had big wins at Bevill State in Sumiton (374-298), Sipsey (146-83), Empire (177-114), Dora  (248-183), and Carbon Hill (259-187); he did very well in boxes like Prospect Methodist, New Bethany, Dillworth, and Union Chapel. When you look at Underwood, he won the Jasper area boxes and Oakman (220-167). He won Jasper Mall 616-537, Meadowsmith Library in Frisco 238-174, Westside 107-88, and McCollum Midway 117-74. But it was, to me, not a blowout in general, as evidenced in Boldo (255-233), Memorial Park (257-239), Curry (310-305), and the absentees (247-220). He got enough of his base, but it was not a runaway he needed. The small communities gave bigger totals to help Smith, who may appeal as their Andy Griffith (albeit more suburbanized) versus the Jasper-based former U.S. Marshal. I imagine Smith’s drug message appealed to these smaller towns, who probably also want more patrols or coverage.

The surprise for me was the probate judge race, as I heard lots of talk about A. Lee Tucker, but Tucker came in second to John Mark Dutton  — who was not particularly well funded or deep in name recognition. However, I shouldn’t have been surprised with Dutton's Jasper connections helping him to large leads in those area boxes. But it was rather close, with 37 percent for Dutton, 34 percent for Tucker and 29 percent for Dayron Bridges, who also still managed to win Eldridge, Kansas, Abundant Life, Thach, New Hope and, in big wins, Pineywoods (199 to 66 for Dutton and 44 for Tucker) and Old Herman Church (107 to 86 for Dutton and 35 for Tucker). Bridges also made it close enough to place second in 22 or 46 precincts and tie for that in a 23rd box; for example, Dutton won Farmstead with 481 but Bridges had 318 to Tucker’s 302. Thus, Bridges’ endorsement is no small potatoes. 

I am still surprised to see Dutton with 26 of 46 boxes, while Tucker had 13 and Bridges had seven. Tucker naturally did well in East Walker, with 525 in the Sumiton box to 105 for Dutton and 54 for Bridges; he won big in Dora, Empire, Parrish, Rices Chapel, Dilworth, and Argo. But again, Dutton won Jasper Mall 443 to 377 for Tucker and 274 for Bridges. 

One thing to say for that race: The idea prevailed that a lawyer should handle the job. It probably is a good idea, given all the legal details to those cases. The trick is going to be that it should be handled with humanity, as many lives are affected by this position in a real way much deeper than driver’s licenses and car tags, and this race should not be taken lightly. 

The superintendent of education race is rather lopsided to report on, which is surprising as both teams had money and energy. The challenger, Joel Hagood, beat the incumbent, Jason Adkins, by almost a 2-1 margin countywide, with Adkins winning only two boxes: Cordova, 571 to 236, and Union Chapel, 304-261. Hagood won by what can only be termed in a landslide, with most boxes so overwhelming in the margins. Prospect went 222-83, Jasper Mall went 765-435, Townley went 96-16, Parrish (which lost a school) was 436-143, and on and on. Hagood has enormous political capital to start his term with. 

However, I am certain that Adkins will land on his feet fine in the education field. He is still young, healthy and knowledgeable. Political defeats have led to remarkable second careers for many ranging from Jimmy Carter to Bill Baxley to ... well, Vonda Beaty, who was beat by Adkins and now finds herself on the county board of education again in District 3, assuming there is no unexpected write-in opposition. 

Out of 11 boxes, Beaty, who had an effective campaign, carried nine against incumbent Bill Ed Gilbert, who still made it competitive with 49 percent of the vote and big wins in Cordova (549-253) and Union Chapel (315-239). Beaty did particularly well in Frisco (247-169), Oakman (265-141), Tutwiler (77-43), Liberty Hill (28-7), Parrish (337-234), McCollum (71-38) and Pleasantfield (42-21). To his credit, two days later Gilbert was leading prayer before the school board convened, as is his custom. He took advantage of the lack of air conditioning in the hall by saying if you think this is hot, think what Hell is going to be like. He will be missed in those impromptu devotionals.

In District 1, Trent Kennedy and David Miller were well liked, but Kennedy may take the Overachiever Award for Tuesday. He worked on the ground hard and was seen everywhere, and also raked in $6,000 in his campaign, the best of the school board candidates by far. In the end, he won every box by huge margins, even 120 to 45 in absentees, and by 2-1 in Jasper and Farmstead. He won 68 percent of the total vote; even Hagood only won 64 percent. 

In the 27 boxes in the county for District 14 House of Representatives, Richard “Bull” Corry won 19 boxes in Walker County to eight for state Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, who still beat the former Oakman mayor across the district. Wadsworth had smaller margins of victory in Saragossa, Pocahontas, Eldridge (where he worked on the exit there), Kansas, Thach, Nauvoo, Bevill State and the absentees. Corry won 3-1 in Oakman and won well in areas like Tutwiler, Cordova (468-314), Parrish (365-207), and a number of others. He even won 230-214 in Carbon Hill, where Wadsworth worked on the exit lighting.

But in the end, a 900-vote lead in Walker County was going to be swamped by Wadsworth’s 1,784-vote margin in Winston County, where Corry only got 456 votes to 2,239 for the incumbent. In Jefferson County, Wadsworth won 411-212. And Wadsworth had more in contributions, saying most were from individuals — but he also raked it in from a number of political action committees. 

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle's news editor.