Smith wins sheriff seat; turnout soars to 49 percent

By ED HOWELL
Posted 11/7/18

Republican Nick Smith capped off a long, successful campaign for sheriff by defeating two independent candidates during Tuesday's General Election. The win came on a day with an amazingly large …

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Smith wins sheriff seat; turnout soars to 49 percent

Posted

Republican Nick Smith capped off a long, successful campaign for sheriff by defeating two independent candidates during Tuesday's General Election. 

The win came on a day with an amazingly large mid-term turnout of 49 percent in Walker County. Walker County Commissioner Keith Davis, who represented the Walker County Republican Party at the vote tabulation, said a record high number of Republican straight party ticket voting took place with 9,862 votes - 42 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the county. 

Officials indicated about 1,200 people voted in Cordova, while poll workers at the Jasper Mall were amazed to see 1,800 voters there. 

Unofficial results show Smith, who earlier defeated Sheriff Jim Underwood in the primaries, won 14,252 votes, or 64.04 percent, on Tuesday, with all precincts reporting except for provisionals. Independent candidate Mike Cole won 7,019 votes, or 31.54 percent, while another independent candidate, Mark Bell, won 920 votes, or 4.13 percent. About 64 write-in votes were cast in the race. 

Smith was swarmed by a large throng of supporters in the back of the Jasper Civic Center auditorium after the votes were announced. Many supporters stepped up one after another to have their photo taken with him. 

He later told reporters the race had lasted 16 months. 

"I told my wife when I started out I was 33 years old. I turned 35 two weeks ago," he said. 

He said he had been on a "long road," in the campaign, as he was two votes short of avoiding a runoff in the primaries, and then "having an additional six weeks against a tough incumbent, and then have to turn around and get right back into campaign mode and go against two independents moving forward. It has been a very challenging and difficult campaign. I was worried about my base and making sure they were staying motivated, because we had such a long process." 

Smith was pleased with turnout from supporters. "They showed up and showed out," he said, recalling that when he first announced, "only a handful of people believed in me and believed I could run and beat an incumbent sheriff. A lot of people laughed. That few people turned into over 14,000 people tonight, and a 7,000-vote victory." 

He said after a family vacation, he would spend the next few months laying out a plan for what he wants to do at the Sheriff's Office after he is inaugurated on Jan. 20. He said he would start today collecting his campaign signs "and saving them for three years down the road." 

Smith spent 14 years of his 15-year law enforcement career serving as chief of police in the cities of Parrish and Cordova. He claims he will be the youngest sheriff to take office in Walker County, passing former Sheriff John Mark Tirey's record. 

A member of Gov. Kay Ivey’s Alabama Law Enforcement Agency drug task force, Smith said recently he wants to obtain cooperation between law enforcement agencies to form a local drug task force and get more grant funds to combat the drug problem. He wants to appoint a school resource officer in each Walker County school without local police protection. 

Smith said he would like to form partnerships with the community has he has done in the past using a number of programs, such as the Mercy Project for drug rehabilitation. 

The sheriff's race was the only local contest race on the ballot. Independent candidate Tanya McGough Guin was listed on the ballot in the superintendent race, but only because she waited too late once she announced she had decided to withdraw from the race. She would get 2,993 votes, or 14 percent, while 172 write-ins made up nearly 1 percent of that race's vote. 

No Democrats were listed in that race or in any other Walker County races.

Interim Walker County Superintendent of Education Joel Hagood, the Republican in the superintendent race, won 18,188 votes, or 85 percent, on Tuesday, and will now become the permanent superintendent as he faced no opposition. He defeated then-incumbent Jason Adkins during the primary. Adkins would later step down from office, and Hagood was appointed to be the interim superintendent for the balance of the term. 

Many local or area candidates in Walker County were unopposed by Democrats, with only write-in votes to consider. They included the county's three state legislators (Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed and House members Tim Wadsworth and Connie Rowe), local judges (Doug Farris, Hoyt Elliott and Greg Williams), members of the Walker County Board of Education (Trent Kennedy and Vonda Pate Beaty), Circuit Clerk Susan Odom, Coroner Joey Vick, and Republican probate juge candidate A. Lee Tucker. 

Kennedy, Beaty and Tucker will now take office for the first time. Beaty's election is unique as she has previously served as a superintendent of education in the county system and will now serve in the District 3 seat, while Kennedy will serve in District 1. 

Tucker will replace Walker County Probate Judge Rick Allison, who is retiring. 

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, won a 12th term as a Republican congressman from the 4th Congressional District, defeating Democrat Lee Auman. His predecessor, Democrat Tom Bevill of Jasper, was elected to 15 terms before retiring in 1996, when Aderholt, now 53, won his first term. He now serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

Aderholt took the county Tuesday with 18,869 votes, or 82 percent, to Auman's 4,097 votes, or 18 percent. He was declared the districtwide winner by the Associated Press by 8:21 p.m., when Aderholt was leading 82 percent to 17 percent.

State and local races on the ballot will be headed up by the gubernatorial contest between Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, the Democratic challenger. Ivey won the county with 76 percent of the votes, 17,643 to 5,453, and also won the state for her first full term as governor. 

With 86 percent of the unofficial vote in, Ivey won 821,163, or 60 percent, to 5,37,293, or 40 percent, according to the AP. 

A number of other state races were on the ballot, including chief justice of the Supreme Court. Republican Tom Parker, a current associate justice on the court and a close ally of former Chief Justice Roy Moore, was facing Circuit Judge Bob Vance, Jr., a Democrat, for the top court position. With 63 percent of the vote in statewide, Parker was called the winner by the AP, not long after it was posted he was winning 58 percent to 41 percent. Parker had 17,069 votes, or 75 percent, in Walker County. 

Jasper attorney Donna Wesson Smalley was the state Democratic nominee for associate justice on the Alabama Supreme Court, Place 4. She was running against Republican Jay Mitchell, who was winning easily at press time, 530,536 to 356,572 statewide, according to the Cullman Times. In Walker County, Mitchell won 17,419 votes, or 78 percent, to Smalley's 4,953 votes, or 22 percent. 

Four state constitutional amendments won in Walker County by large margins, and were looking like they would pass easily statewide: 

• Amendment 1 was set to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed on state and other public property although public funds could not defend the constitutionality of the amendment in court.

• Amendment 2 was written to recognize the sanctity of unborn life and say the state does not protect the right to abortion nor require funding abortions.

• Amendment 3 deals with changes to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

• Amendment 4 will provide that if a legislative seat becomes vacant in the third year of a four-year term, that the seat will remain vacant until the next General Election. 

After storms moved through the area overnight, taking with it a tornado watch for the area, the skies became calm and voters enjoyed good weather. Polling officials indicated at the Jasper Mall by 11 a.m. that steady crowds had been coming throughout the morning.

Davis said officials had a good voter turnout, with what he called 13 strong, experienced candidates, whom he noted were screened by the party. 

"It was just a good slate of Republicans running for office ... and people overwhelmingly showed support for our Republican ticket. It was a good day for Walker County and a good day for the Republican Party, also," he said. 

He said the overall turnout was especially good compared to the 2014 mid-term election in the county. 

Allison said few problems were experienced during the voting process in the county, noting it has "been a while" since the county has had 23,000 voters. "We should have that at least every time," he said. 

At the vote tabulation Tuesday night, people at the civic center were delayed a longer time than usual in getting the first votes, as the absentees were delayed in order to go through a procedure of adding military ballots by hand, Allison said. By the time the absentee ballots were added, most of the other boxes were on hand to start adding.