In the closely watched race for Somervell County Judge, County Commissioner Mike Ford narrowly beat Justice of the Peace Dwayne Griffin by just 27 votes.
The final vote, which is not official until it is canvassed on Monday, was 1,386 votes for Ford and 1,359 votes for Griffin. The margin of victory was less than one point. Ford received 50.49 percent of the vote and Griffin garnered 49.51 percent.
Early voting totals predicted the outcome of all county races. They were the first totals to be posted and accounted for almost half of the county's total votes. Of 5,680 registered voters in Somervell County, 2,781 cast ballots — 48.96 percent, a heavy turnout — and 1,442 of those were early votes.The total set a record for an election with a gubernatorial contest, said Cathy Thomas, the county's election coordinator.
In early voting, 724 ballots were cast for Ford and 701 for Griffin.
When the Reporter went to press Tuesday night, only the early voting and four precincts had been posted. At that point, Griffin held a slight lead by 13 votes and the race was still too close to call. The final batch of votes, from Precinct 6, put Ford over the top.
Interestingly, there were 33 "under votes" in the race, meaning that 33 people chose not to vote for county judge but voted for other positions on the ballot.
Back in his commissioner's office Wednesday morning, Ford was taking calls and visits from constituents offering their congratulations.
"It could have gone either way," he said in an interview. "Dwayne and I knew from the beginning this was going to be a very close race. Absolutely nobody knew how it was going to turn out. People in this county by and large are very friendly and are not going to tell you how they're going to vote. When you knock on their door, they are very cordial, so it makes it difficult to read."
"I am just incredibly humbled by the expression of trust and support that people have put in me," Ford added. "I look forward to working with what I think is an excellent Commissioners Court with a lot of experience and some new blood. It's an exciting time."
Election results trickled in as a crowd of several dozen people braved the fall chill and drizzling rain on the square. They gathered in front of the Somervell County Courthouse, as voters have done for years, to watch the election returns come in the old-fashioned way, written by hand on a big white board.
Ford, who ran on the Republican ticket, and Griffin, who ran as a Democrat, shook hands under the gazebo while waiting for the election results and wished each other well. The candidates praised each other for running clean, respectful campaigns.
The winner will succeed County Judge Walter Maynard, who has served as county judge for 12 years, and will be sworn in Jan. 1.
In the County Commissioner, Precinct 2, election, Republican John Curtis, who worked as a radiation manager at the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, defeated Paul Harper, who manages the local food bank and is an engineer for software giant Microsoft Corp. Curtis held a wide lead in the early voting totals and received 623 votes, or more than 80 percent, to Harper's 155 votes, or 19.9 percent.
In the County Commissioner, Precinct 4 race, Democrat Pete Moore, owner of Glen Rose Auto Parts, lost to incumbent Republican James Barnard, by 69 votes. Barnard won 379 votes, or just over 55 percent, to Moore's 310 votes, or 44.99 percent.
Incumbent Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Ronnie Webb ran as a Democrat and had no opposition. He received 870 votes.
For Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Democrat Scott May also ran unopposed. He netted 803 votes.
Several Democrat incumbents ran unopposed for other county jobs. Re-elected to their positions were Candace Garrett for district and county clerk, with 1,708 votes, and County Treasurer Barbara Hudson, with 1,646 votes.
Republicans swept races nationwide and that was largely true in Somervell County as well.
State Senator Brian Birdwell, who represents the county in District 22, ran unopposed and received 2,105 votes. Birdwell made an appearance at the Republican Club's watch party at Hollywood & Vine restaurant.
Incumbent Republican State Rep. Sid Miller, who represents the county in District 59, won 2,000 votes, defeating independent Will Bratton by a margin of 82.5 percent to 17.49 percent.
District Judge, 249th District, Wayne Bridewell ran unopposed on the GOP ticket and received the most votes of any candidate on the Somervell County ballot — 2,233.
In U.S. District 17 election, one of the most hotly contested congressional races in the nation, 20-year incumbent Chet Edwards, D-Waco, lost to Republican challenger Bill Flores. Somervell County also favored Flores, giving him more than 63 percent of the vote, or 1,708 ballots cast, to Edwards' 34.65 percent, or 937 votes.
In the governor's race, the county gave incumbent Rick Perry a wide margin of victory, with 64 percent of the vote, to Democrat Bill White's 32.8 percent.
Please see next week's Reporter for interviews with the candidates and a complete report on what the election means for the future of Somervell County.