Jim Bartley said his is considering his options following his resounding loss Tuesday to incumbent Ron Cross in the contest for Columbia County Commission Chairman.
Cross, who was seeking to extend his run as chairman to 16 years, won easily with 6,965 votes to Bartley’s 4,670, or 60 percent of total votes cast.
“It is disheartening for everybody,” Bartley said of the low voter turnout for the primary election. “The voters are mad, but they aren’t voting. What that means, I don’t know.”
Bartley, a builder by profession and a persistent critic of Cross’s administration, said he was considering trying another run against Cross in November as an independent candidate.
“I’ve got people begging me to run as an independent,” he said. “I have not made up my mind yet.”
He said the issues that drew him into the contest are still there and still need to be addressed.
“If civic minded people don’t run for office, who will you have running?”
Cross said he was satisfied with the margin of victory,
although the voter turnout, about 19 percent, was a concern going into the election and had him carefully watching the numbers come in Tuesday night.
“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.
Cross won in all but nine precincts, but had the weakest support in District 4 where Bartley outpolled him by two votes.
Cross was strongest in District 1, where voter turnout was boosted by another commission race between Doug Duncan and Hafeez Chaudhry.
In that contest, Duncan, a vice president with MAU Inc., coasted to victory with nearly 77 percent of the vote. He outpolled Chaudhry, a retired Savannah River Site engineer and businessman, 3,074 votes to 948.
Nevertheless, Chaudhry said he was satisfied with his campaign and 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 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 on the ballot. 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.