Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross deflected a challenge to his next four years in office Tuesday, while Doug Duncan easily defeated his competition to take the Commission’s District 1 seat.
Cross, who was seeking to extend his run as chairman to 16 years, defeated his Republican challenger, Jim Bartley, with 6,965 votes to Bartley’s 4,670, or 60 percent of total votes cast.
Cross said the turnout, about 19 percent, was a concern going into the election, but he was satisfied with the margin of victory.
“I was always confident, but I was worried about the voter turnout,” he said. “Anytime less that 20 percent of people vote, it can be a problem for anybody.”
Cross said some “anti-incumbent” sentiment among voters is expected after more than a decade in office.
“Being in office for 12 years, you will make some decisions that make some people unhappy,” he said.
Bartley. a builder by profession and a critic of Cross’s administration, did not come by the Board of Elections office to watch results come in Tuesday night; nor did Hafeez Chaudhry, who only garnered about 24 percent of the vote in the District 1 Commission contest.
Nevertheless, Chaudhry said he was looking forward to contributing to the county in other ways.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I made it open and clear that I am in this county, I care about this county, and win or lose I will be working for the good of this county.”
Duncan, a vice president with MAU Inc., received nearly 77 percent of the vote. He outpolled Chaudhry, a retired Savannah River Site engineer and businessman 3,074 votes to 948, in District 1 precincts, which cover the eastern corner of the county.
Duncan said he was “honored and humbled” by the support received from voters.
“I want to thank my opponent for running a good race that focused on the issues,” Duncan said. “I look forward to serving the citizens of Columbia County.”
Duncan, who will be unopposed in the November general election, said he will spend the next seven months preparing for his new role as commissioner.
“I’m going to engage with (County Administrator) Scott Johnson and the commissioners to understand the issues and hit the ground running in January,” he said.
Columbia County Elections Director Nancy Gay said she was “very disappointed” with voter turnout considering the number of races. She wasn’t sure why the numbers were low.
“I can tell you who voted, the people that always vote, our core voters,” she said.