Leader Blues

Monday, November 13, 2006

TOP STORY >>Another vote set Nov. 28

IN SHORT: Several posts in White County, including county judge, will be settled in a runoff.

Leader staff writer

White County voters will pick a county judge when they return to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 28 or start Monday if they prefer to vote early.

Dennis Gilliam, an independent, and Republican Michael Lincoln face off in the runoff for the county judge’s seat while several municipalities pick mayors, constables and aldermen.

Lincoln led Tuesday’s White County judge’s race with 36.9 percent of the ballots cast followed by Gilliam’s 32 percent. A third candidate, Democrat Waylon Heathscott, got 31 percent of the votes.

Most prominent among those races, incumbent Belinda LaForce and former Alderman Dale Brewer will settle the Searcy mayor’s race.

Early voting for the runoff will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays beginning Monday at the White County Courthouse. There will be no early voting Thursday, Nov. 23 and Friday, Nov. 24 due to Thanksgiving.

Voter turnout in White County was strong during Tuesday’s general election with 21,540 ballots being cast, a little less than half of the county’s 43,166 registered voters. Lincoln said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome in Tuesday’s election.

“I knew there were three strong candidates and that it would end in a runoff. Typically people don’t get out and vote during a runoff but I think the Searcy mayor’s race is going to help; I had a strong voter base in Searcy,” Lincoln said.

While the campaigning goes on for two-and-a-half more weeks, Lincoln says he plans to canvass the county in hopes of picking up votes from the Heathscott side.

“I think I can pick up a few votes from Heathscott supporters in the high Democrat areas of Bald Knob, Judsonia and Beebe,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln serves as the executive director of Camp Wyldewood, a Christian camp and retreat center just north of Searcy. Both candidates say county roads, the sheriff’s department and economic development are the key points in the judge’s race.

“I think Mr. Lincoln got all the votes he’s going to get. I’m going to continue to define the difference between us. I’m progressive leadership without partisan politics,” Gillam said.

“We have a new sheriff in the county and I think he needs to be able to run that department without interference. The county judge should protect the rural area by funding the sheriff’s department without interefering in the daily operations of it,” Gillam said, referring to public disputes between White County Judge Bob Parish and Sheriff Pat Garrett. Garrett was defeated in Tuesday’s election by Republican Ricky Shourd.

“A county judge is like the chief executive officer of the county, handling the finances fairly regardless of party affiliations and leading without partisan politics,” Gillam said. Gillam was the Craighead county judge from 1976 to 1980.

In the Searcy mayor’s race, Brewer, a Republican, led with 43.6 percent of the votes followed closely by LaForce, a Democrat, getting 42.4 percent. A third candidate, Philip Williams got 14 percent running as an independent.

Pangburn voters will also be picking their mayor in the runoff, choosing between independents Farris Wood and James H. Williams. Wood got 44 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s general election followed by Williams with 38.5 percent. Another independent, Gary F. Sharp got 17 percent of the vote.

Other local races in White County include the Bradford alderman runoff between independents Renee Barron who got 40 percent and Russ Durham who got 31.5 percent of the vote. A third candidate, Jimmy R. Edens received 28 percent of the vote.

Rose Bud voters will choose between two women for the Position 2 alderman race.

Independents Lisa Baldridge Wolf and Debbie Gorham each got 40.6 percent of the vote in the general election. The third candidate, J. Tim Barley got 18.8 percent of the vote.

South of Searcy, voters in Gum Springs Township can go to the polls to pick a constable during the runoff.

In Tuesday’s election, Democrat Wayne McKown got 41.7 percent of the vote and Republican Bruce Pearson got 37.5 percent. An independent candidate Steven Stray-horn got 20.8 percent of the vote.