Leader Blues

Friday, June 02, 2006

TOP STORY>> Three republicans get recounts

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Two Lonoke County JPs, apparently turned out of office in an intraparty feud, say they distrust the results of a
troubled vote count and will have recounts, as will a Cabot alderman.

At the petition of three Republican candidates, one of whom lost by a single vote, the Lonoke County Election Commis-sion has scheduled recounts in their races for 10 a.m., Saturday, June 10 at the county courthouse, according to Jean McCanliss, commission chairman.

Carl Schmidt, who lost 586 to 585 to Virgil Teague Jr. in a Republican primary race for Cabot alderman Ward 2, Position 1, was the first to ask for a recount.

Two members of the Lonoke County Quorum Court, who lost to candidates fielded and supported by the conservative Republican Assembly, say their races were close enough and the election irregular enough, to ask for hand recounts of the ballots.

The cost of a recount is 25 cents per ballot.

Dist. 12 JP Gina Burton, who lost her race to newcomer Casey VanBuskirk by only six votes, 115 to 109, decided Tuesday evening to challenge the count.

Burton said that her decision to ask for a recount stemmed from the closeness of the race combined with the irregularities in counting the ballots in Lonoke County.

Ballot counting was stopped about six hours after the May 23 primary ended because of problems in the programming of the optical scanner, and despite attempted fixes by the contractor, ES&S, the ballots went uncounted until last Saturday, when the paper ballots were hand counted.

The county election commission certified those counts Thursday.

Dist. 13 JP Marty Stumbaugh decided he also would challenge his loss to newcomer Mark Edward, 151 to 125.

Both Stumbaugh and Burton say they've kept quiet long enough about ultra-conservative Cabot Republicans who worked to oust them for their occasional independence.

Stumbaugh added that he might run as an independent for Cabot mayor. Filing is still open in Cabot for office seekers.

His brother Stubby Stumbaugh is stepping down from the mayor’s office and is running for Congress against Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett.

Stumbaugh said he was disturbed that the amount of his loss so far has increased from 18 votes to 26. “How did that happen?” he asked.

He blamed Randy Minton and JP Lynn Clarke by name for contributing to his defeat, although Stumbaugh said his promotion to shift commander at the Cabot Fire Department had kept him too busy to campaign door to door.

“I want to show the (counting) inconsistencies. (The commission) refused to count by hand Tuesday night, Thursday and Friday and I'm leery."

Stumbaugh said Minton and his followers turned on him after Stumbaugh voted to let residents consider a new county tax instead of trying to take money from the cities, including Cabot, to repair and expand the jail.

“I didn’t support his reapportionment,” Stumbaugh said.

Minton, a former state representative, holds no elected office.

“With everything that went on, too many things went awry,” Burton said.

“I want to know that the vote is accurate,” she added.

Burton said that her break with the Republican Assembly, including Minton, Pete Pedersen and Constable Vince Scarlatta, among others — had become personal, exacerbated by her winning the Lonoke County Republican Party chairmanship over Larry Clarke and later Minton's loss of the chairmanship by a single vote to Chuck Graham, a more mainstream Republican.
“It's got to the point that someone's got to stand up, and I'm there,” Burton said.