County Dems certify results, prep for runoff

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, March 12, 2020

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The Dallas County primary isn’t quite over yet – officials, including representatives from the Dallas County Democratic and Republican parties, the probate judge’s office and the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) certified election results Tuesday, including a handful of provisional ballots, and candidates are gearing up for a March 31 runoff which will decide the fate of two Dallas County Commission seats, the Dallas County Tax Collector and the District 5 State School Board seat.

According to Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee (DCDEC) Vice Chair Billy Young, he and DCDEC Secretary B.J. Smothers joined Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn and a representative from his office and Dallas County Clerk Lynnethia Robinson, along with representatives from the county Republican Party and the DCSO, in the probate judge’s office Tuesday to certify results from the March 3 primary and include previously-uncounted provisional ballots.

Young noted that some of the provisional ballots had to be thrown out because they didn’t meet the requirements to be counted.

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One race, between Dallas County Constable candidates Jasper Bowie and Khadijah Sylvia Robertson, ended in a tie.

“The interesting tidbit with this is that out of all our races, we had one tie, which no one could remember happening in Dallas County,” Young said. “If it’s happened before, it happened a long time ago.”

State law requires that party chairs determine a mechanism for deciding a tie in county races, so DCDEC Chair Synnethia Pettaway has opted for a coin toss, which will take place in front of both candidates Friday afternoon at the courthouse.

“This is historic in nature that we’re having something like this,” Young said. “Every vote truly does county – this is evidence of that.”

But while the ink is still drying on certified election results, Young and the DCDEC are already gearing up for the March 31 runoff.

On the commission, only District 3 Dallas County Commissioner Curtis Williams will be returning, while District 1 Dallas County Commissioner Valerie Reubin will hand her seat back to Connell Towns, the incumbent she bested four years ago to take the seat, after an election decided by only 20 votes.

Mike Irwin and Vivian Rogers, both political newcomers, will go head-to-head in a runoff for the District 2 commission seat, while Jan Justice will square off against William Lumpkin in the District 4 commission contest.

“The voters in Dallas County apparently wanted change,” Young said. “There are going to be a lot of new faces at the courthouse and that appears to be what the citizens of Dallas County wanted. There was a spirit of change, this was a change election.”

Also in the runoff will be Janet Frazier and Tanika Wagner-Neely, both newcomers, who will be vying to serve as Dallas County Tax Collector.

While not a county seat, voters will also weigh in on the District 5 State School Board race, which pits Dallas County native Tonya Chestnut against Fred Bell.

Young said he was impressed with the way Chestnut “was really able to get a lot of people in the Black Belt to come out and vote for her.”

“This race is interesting because it’s not just Montgomery, it’s all these other areas out here in the Black Belt,” Young said of the school board race. “Tonya Chestnut was able to put together a well-oiled political machine very quickly.”

Roughly 33 percent of Dallas County voters turned out for the primary vote, but Young said that he’s noticed an uptick in interest for local races.

“Out of all the years I’ve lived in Dallas County, I believe there’s a lot more attention on the county commission than there’s ever been,” Young said. “In the past, there wasn’t a whole lot of attention paid to these elections. The citizens of Dallas County are actively paying attention to all government.”

Young noted that he has spoken with a number of local residents who praised both the DCDEC’s public forum, as well as the radio forum, as essential in helping them decide which candidates to support.

“I think that helped people make their decisions when they went to the ballot box,” Young said. “I think this wealth of information really helped people make their decision for who they wanted to lead Dallas County.”

For the most part, Young was pleased with the primary turnout and expect much the same from the upcoming runoff.

“Dallas County has been on an uptick as far as getting people out to vote,” Young said. “Getting 33 percent of the electorate on a bad weather day and so many things going on…we want it to get better, but we’re seeing that voters in Dallas County seem to be coming out for every election.”

In preparation for the March 31 runoff, the DCDEC is planning a social media campaign to get the word out and will be tackling other plans in an upcoming meeting.

Still, Young is “cautiously optimistic” that candidates will help get out the vote and voters will heed the call.

“We are hoping that all of the candidate that have made it into the runoff that, essentially, they don’t stop running and keep their supporters and the electorate enthused,” Young said. “They are out there aggressively trying to make sure their people that voted for them in the primary come out to vote, but they’re also going after those people that maybe didn’t vote for them in the primary.”

Young said the candidates are excited and he expects for the county’s keenly-attentive electorate to show up in force.

“If no one else in the world comes out to vote, Dallas County, Alabama, should,” Young said. “We are the place where voting rights were fought for, so we have an inherent responsibility to come out and vote.”