Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle is congratulated by Chief Deputy Lou Ciamillo at the Evans Government Center after winning
re-election in the Republican primary.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The hand-shaking and baby-kissing is over, and the political signs are down - or should be for most candidates - but the work is far from over for the winners of Tuesday's primary elections.
About 46 percent of the county's registered voters went to the polls, deciding office holders for most of the local races after months of being on the receiving end of exhaustive and at times contentious campaign efforts.
Here is a look for what lies ahead for some of the winners in Columbia County's elections:
State Senate, 24th District: Jim Whitehead
Jim Whitehead's campaign trail is not over even after unseating Sen. Joey Brush in Tuesday's Republican primary.
Whitehead, 62, will face Democratic candidate Chuck Pardue in November for the job of representing the district's seven counties, including Columbia and McDuffie, in the state Senate.
After serving more than seven years in the Senate, Brush, 48, said Tuesday he was unsure if he would make another political bid in the future.
"I don't know right now," he said. "I'm looking forward to having a little quieter life."
Whitehead received 13,972 votes, or 58 percent, throughout the district, while Brush received 9,984 votes.
Through he lost the race, Brush performed better in six of the district's seven counties. In McDuffie County, he received 1,324 compared to Whitehead's 1,133 votes, and in Lincoln County, Brush garnered 217 votes while Whitehead had 179.
Wade Padgett, candidate for Columbia County Chief Magistrate, stands with his daughter Jordan, 11, as he does some last minute campaigning on Washington Road on Tuesday afternoon. Padgett won his primary race.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
But it was the population base of Columbia County that made all the difference where Whitehead received 12,412 votes and Brush got 8,074.
In Columbia County, Whitehead posted the strongest return percentages at the Grace Baptist Church in Evans where he held nearly 70 percent of the votes. Brush's best showings in the county were in Grovetown, where he snagged 51 percent of the votes both at Grovetown City Hall and Grovetown Methodist Church.
Whitehead, who served for eight years on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, said he credited a strong campaign team for his win Tuesday night.
"I have said for years I've never done anything in my life without other people," he said.
County Commission, District 3: Diane Ford
Incumbent Diane Ford will be keeping an eye out for her challenger and attempting to reach a younger constituency after narrowly beating out political newcomer Greg Kernaghan to retain her long-held seat on the county board.
Ford will continue as the longest-serving commissioner. On Tuesday, she received 3,303 votes, for 53 percent, to Mr. Kernaghan's 2,977, giving him 47 percent.
Voters cast their ballots at Martinez Elementary School in Columbia County on Tuesday. Voter turnout appeared to be heavier than normal for a primary election.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Ford got the highest percentage of votes - 63 percent - at the Damascus Baptist Church precinct in Leah. Kernaghan best showing was at Greenbrier High School where he received 54 percent of the votes.
"This has humbled me," Ford, 51, said after watching election results at the Evans government complex. "The county has changed so much with a lot of young voters, who aren't aware of my 12 years of service."
She also offered Kernaghan, 34, a way to remain involved in county politics.
"I told Greg that if he wants to get his feet wet in politics to come see me, and we'll get him on a committee," Ford said.
He said he would take up on the offer and did not rule out the possibility of running again for the Board of Commissioners.
"You'll see me again," he said.
Sheriff: Clay Whittle
Clay Whittle, who handily beat challenger Lewis Blanchard to remain as the county's top law enforcement officer, will continue to work on dropping the county's crime rate, which became a cornerstone of his campaign message.
Whittle received 15,440 votes, or 74 percent, while Blanchard received 5,512, or 26 percent, of the votes.
When asked Tuesday night if he was surprised at the wide margin, Whittle said only slightly.
"I expected it to be closer to 60/40, so I guess I am," said Whittle, 44, who was first elected sheriff in 1995.
Whittle dominated the polls most at the Evans precincts of Belair Elementary and Evans Middle schools where he captured 80 percent of the votes at both sites. Blanchard's closest approach was at the Burks Mountain Fire Station precinct in Appling where he received 49 percent of the votes cast.
Because there was no Democratic candidate, Whittle assumes the post for another four years.
"I think the people of Columbia County understand what we're doing and liked it," he said.
Blanchard, 39, said he would consider running again for position if he still felt that changes were needed in the department.
"I wanted to make a change; I wanted to make things better," Blanchard said. "I'm disappointed, but I'm not sad and I have no regrets."
Chief Magistrate: Wade Padgett
After winning a three-way race for Columbia County Magistrate, Wade Padgett will attempt to appoint an Associate Magistrate as well work on getting the court's budget under control.
Padgett, who served for 10 years as Associate Magistrate and works as a local attorney, surpassed his two challengers attorney Richard Ingram and insurance agency owner Hal Morris, with 65 percent of the votes
Padgett, 39, earned votes from 13,032 residents, while Ingram, 44, garnered 5,371, or 27 percent. Morris, 65, brought in 1,561 votes, or 8 percent.
"Experience was the biggest difference," Padgett said. "I am honored, humbled and flattered that the voters have given me this opportunity."
After taking office Jan. 1, Padgett already plans to nominate Assistant District Attorney Bobby Christine to fill the associate magistrate position. The nomination must be approved by a Superior Court judge.
In the Augusta Judicial Circuit's race to replace Judge Albert M. Pickett, Sheryl Jolly will fill the eighth Superior Court judgeship for Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties.
She led with 37,240 votes over the closest competitor, Sherry Barnes, at 11,295 votes. Walter S. Meetze Jr. followed with 4,156 votes.
Jolly, 44, will assume the seat held by Pickett, who announced in March that he would retire at the end of the year.
Under the current practices of the Superior Court judges, as the newest judge, Jolly will preside over domestic relations cases.
Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this report.
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