To no one’s surprise, county Republicans overwhelmingly supported President Trump in Tuesday’s presidential preference primary, while Democrats strongly backed former Vice President Joe Biden, for their parties’ nominees.
What did come as a bit of a surprise was the turnout, which despite the upheaval prompted by the coronavirus threat, ran at nearly 30 percent.
"With everything going on, it was an excellent turnout," said Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley. "I’m so proud of everybody; it went really smooth, and voters turned out.
"Everybody was pleased with the sanitation effort," she said. "Everybody maintained social distance. We didn’t have any complaints. Everybody was really happy to vote,"
Riley said her staff took extra precautions based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, including sanitizing all the surfaces and equipment at each of the eight polling places. She said hand sanitizer, latex gloves, and alcohol swabs were among several methods used all day Tuesday.
Poll workers were asked to keep voters at a distance, and there was a temporary expansion of the no solicitation zone in front of each polling site.
Of the 2,285 voters who cast ballots, a tad more than 28 percent of the county’s 8,103 registered voters, about three out of five voted either by mail or with early voting. The remainder, 921 voters, all cast ballots on Election Day.
Only about 54 percent of those who voted were Democrats, reflecting the growing numbers of Republicans in the county, which not so far in the distant past used to have as much as a four-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans.
Only 4 percent of these GOP voters did not cast ballots from Trump, with 20 of them opting for former Massachusetts Bill Weld, 16 for former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, who had suspended his campaign, and seven for perennial long-shot Florida candidate Roque de la Fuente.
Among Democrats, a little more than 64 percent, or 764, preferred former Vice President Joe Biden, while 18 percent, or 214, liked Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and 3 percent opted for Hawaii congressman Tulsi Gabbard. These three were the only candidates still running out of a field of 16 listed on the ballot.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg drew 50 votes, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg 32, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren 27, and business executive Andrew Yang 22.
Riley’s office conducted 16 days of early voting, encompassing the state-mandated days as well as five optional days counties can add.
Qualifying set for June
Next on Riley’s bucket list will be conducting qualifying for the slate of local candidates vying for county offices in November. That qualifying takes place between June 8 through 12.
Unless other candidates enter the races between now and June, none of the candidates who have so far declared their intention to run will be on the primary ballot August 18, since none of either party’s many nominations is being contested.
Erin Griffith and Michele Maxwell are each running without party affiliation in their bid to replace retiring clerk of court Marcia Johnson, so they will go straight to the November ballot.
Incumbent sheriff AJ Smith is unopposed for the Republican nomination, as is Carl Whaley for the Democratic nomination. Incumbent superintendent Traci Moses is unopposed for the Democratic nomination, as is Republican Steve Lanier, who is challenging her.
Incumbent property appraiser Democrat Rhonda Skipper has not yet drawn opposition, nor has incumbent tax collector Republican Rick Watson. Riley, who is not affiliated with any party, has not attracted an opponent for supervisor of elections.
In District 1, Republican county commissioner Ricky Jones has declared plans to seek reelection, while Melonie Inzetta plans to seek a seat on the school board in the non-partisan election. Incumbent George Thompson has not indicated whether he plans to run.
In District 3, incumbent Fonda Davis Sr. has declared his intent to seek reelection.
Riley said she has not yet been informed by the school board if they wish to place on the primary ballot a renewal of the half-cent sales tax levy, which first passed in 2008, and has been renewed twice by voters. The board has been contemplating either being on that ballot or holding a special election.
"By June they would have to give me the wording," she said. "As soon as qualifying ends, I would need the ballot language"