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County Commission Candidates Fork Out $50,000-Plus

Barring a dramatic shift in political winds between now and November, every Putnam County Republican who wins candidacy in Tuesday’s Primary will be elected to office in the General Election on November 8th.

The last Democrat elected to a county office was Gary Tillis who was elected as County Commission in 2006. Since 2006, Republican candidates have won every election for county office with an increasing margin of victory.

In November, county voters will fill the offices of Circuit Clerk, County Clerk, and County Commissioner. No Democratic Party candidate chose to file for Circuit Clerk or County Clerk during the January filing period. Democrat Jim Withrow filed for County Commissioner. The last Democrat to run for the Commission was Rosalee Juba-Plumley in 2018. She was defeated by a 2 to 1 margin.

Incumbent County Clerk Brian Wood is unopposed in the Primary. The offices of Circuit Clerk and County Commissioner each have four Republicans seeking candidacy. Seeking candidacy for Circuit Clerk are Stephanie Smith, Michael Thompson, Donald Underwood and Mike Reynolds. The race is wide open in that current Circuit Clerk J.J. Mullins is not seeking reelection.

The Republican candidates for County Commissioner are Ron Foster, Ed Absten, Steve Deweese, and Todd Dillon. Foster was elected to the Commission in 2016 and is seeking a second six-year term. Deweese served as Putnam County Sheriff from 2013 to 2021. Absten and Dillon are first-time office seekers.

The cost of running for Circuit Clerk pales in comparison to that of the race for County Commissioner. The combined total expenses of the four Circuit Court candidates on their Pre-Primary filing reports was $15,021. The four County Commission candidates listed a combined total of $51,922 of Pre-Primary expenses. The Pre-Primary filings are listed on the Putnam County Clerk’s website at http://putnamcoclerk.com/election

Foster was top in reported expenses with $20,176.90, followed by Deweese at $14,203.66, Absten at $8,85.14, and Dillon at $8,556.22.

The actual cost per vote will not be determined until the votes are counted and Post-Primary financial reports are filed. The voter turnout in non-presidential elections tends to be low. In 2018, there were 5,711 Republican Primary voters. If Tuesday’s turnout is similar to 2018, the average cost of a vote for County Commission will be $9.09.

The number of individuals choosing to vote early is considered to be an indication of voter interest. Early voting began on Wednesday, April 26. County Clerk Brian Wood said that as of Monday, May 2, there were slightly fewer early voters than in the same period in 2018.

In addition to selecting candidates for the General Election, voters will be electing three members to four-year terms to the Board of Education. Election to the Board is dependent upon both vote total and residency requirements. No more than two Board members can be elected from the same district. Two members of the five-member Board were elected in 2020 and two years of their terms remaining. Because one resides in District I and the other in District II, only one District I candidate and only one District II candidate can be elected on May 10th. Two candidates may be elected from District III.

Both Melissa Oxley and Brad Hodges are running from District III. The highest vote-getter of the two is guaranteed a seat on the Board. The low vote-getter in District III cannot be elected unless his or her vote total is greater than either of the top vote-getter in District II or in District I. Rob Cunningham is the only one seeking election from District I but he will not necessarily be elected unless his total is greater that the second place finisher in District III. Rosalee Juba-Plumley and Wade Neal are both running from District II. The top of the two will be elected if the their total is greater the second place finisher in District III. In the event that Oxley and Hodges were the highest two vote-getters county-wide, the third member to be elected to the Board would be the higher of Cunningham, Neal, and Juba-Plumley.

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