Pulaski sees strong turnout for General Election

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Nov. 10—One of the biggest winners on Tuesday was Mark Vaught, Pulaski County Election Coordinator. As votes came in from packed polling places around the county Tuesday night, Vaught could be heard saying that while others told him there would be a light turnout, he had disagreed — and he was right.

"I told them it would be somewhere between 20,000 and 22,000 (votes), based on historical (trends)," said Vaught on Wednesday. "I think in 2018, it was almost 22,400 in the mid-term General Election, and it was 13-14,000 in the Primary in 2018, so it's pretty much identical to our situation (this year), and that time we didn't have a (U.S.) senator running, nor did we have the amendments. So I felt comfortable that we'd have a heavier turnout than what they were thinking."

In all, Pulaski County saw 21,467 voters show up to make their selections this General Election.

On Election Day, 13,678 people came out to vote, while early voting saw 6,651 participate. Meanwhile, 1,040 people voted mail-in, but only 954 got returned, and Vaught said there were 174 walk-ins. "Everything else was on Election Day," he said.

While there were some ballot issues in the Primary back in May, Vaught said things went much more smoothly this time around, and that the extra printers the Pulaski County Fiscal Court approved for him between elections helped considerably.

Many of the major county races had already been decided in the Primary Election. Of the hottest ones still contested, Alan Keck beat Eddie Girdler for Mayor of Somerset, 1,844 votes to 1,256; B.J. Hardy outdid Dylan Gorski in one District Judge race, 10,328 votes to 7,445 in Pulaski County; and Katie Slone held onto her seat on the bench over Jerald LeMaster by a large margin of 15,407 votes to 1,997. (In Rockcastle County, also served by those District Judge positions, Gorski actually beat Hardy 2,214 to 1,537, but it wasn't enough to make up the difference here, while Slone outperformed LeMaster there 3,372 to 445.)

In other contest races, Laura Carrigan held onto her District 4 Pulaski County School Board seat over Ian Lawler, Jimmy Eastham and Amanda "Bean" Bullock stayed on the Somerset City Council by beating Chris McWilliams and Teresa Singleton respectively, and Shane Baker topped Bryon Vaught to remain the 85th District State Representative in Frankfort (Laurel County residents also voted in this last race).

Four spots were open for Science Hill City Commissioner. Terry "Cornbread" Wesley got the most votes, with 132; William Dick was just behind at 124, Billy New got 110 and Jimmy Ramsey 109. Beth Wheet fell short at a very close 101.

One more race had a little mystery to it, though proved a bit tricky on the ballot. There were three spots available for the Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors contest, but only two names on the ballot — Rodney Dick and Lindon Woods, both of whom were effectively ushered in. There were two write-in candidates — Karen Taylor and Marty Wilson, and Wilson came out on top with 622 votes to Taylor's 70.

A number of other races on the ballot were uncontested, and although candidates got votes, there was no intrigue to the race. They included:

—Teresa Whitaker for Circuit Judge Division 1, Eddy Montgomery for Circuit Judge Division 2, and Marcus Vanover for Circuit Judge Division 3 or "Family Court";

—David Burdine, Brian Dalton, John Ricky Minton, Jim Mitchell, Jerry Wheeldon, Jerry Girdler, Robin Daughetee, Patrick Hunley, Tom Eastham, and David Godsey for their respective Somerset City Council wards;

—Cindy Price for the Pulaski County Board of Education 3rd District;

—Lesa Ann Holt, Mark Richard Catron, and David Sayers, Jr., for the Science Hill School Board;

—Josh Bray, Josh Branscum, Ken Upchurchand David Meade for their State House of Representatives districts;

—David Dalton for Commonwealth's Attorney;

—T.W. Todd for Property Valuation Administrator;

—Marshall Todd for Judge-Executive;

—Martin Hatfield for County Attorney;

—Tim Price for County Clerk;

—Bobby Jones for Sheriff;

—Anthony McCollum for Jailer;

—Clyde Strunk for Coroner;

—Anthony Glenn Thompson for Surveyor;

—Jason Turpen, Mike Wilson, Jimmy Wheeldon, Mark Ranshaw, and Mike Strunk for County Magistrates;

—Danny Weddle, Doug Baker, Jeff Ward, Travis Gillian, and Matthew Godbey for Constables;

—Jacqueline Caldwell and James Lambert for Appellate Judge positions;

—Elaine Wilson, Scott Gulock and Jay Tuttle IV for Somerset School Board;

—Robert Lawson for Mayor of Burnside, and Keith Summers, Carol Griffin, George Bryant, Terry Vanover, Dwayne Sellers, and Randy Berry for Burnside City Council;

—Edward Hicks for Mayor of Eubank and Iris Todd, Kenneth Ray Upchurch, Curtis Todd and David Shivel for Eubank City Commissioners;

—Alan Dobbs for Mayor of Ferguson and Karen Gregg, Anthony "Tony" DePrato, Linda Hughes, Cory "Chase" Dobbs, Stephanie Jones and Paul Moody for Ferguson City Council;

—Mike Hall for Mayor of Science Hill.

Somerset's Hal Rogers and Bowling Green's Rand Paul both won their respective re-election bids to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Here in Pulaski County, both were ballot favorites as well — the Republican Rogers with 17,819 votes (84.97 percent) to Democrat Conor Halbleib's 3,151 (15.03%) and the GOP's Paul with 17,000 (80.28%) to Democrat Charles Booker's 4,177 (19.72%).

On straight ticket voting, Pulaski County predictably went red — 9,042 votes (87.06%) Republican, 1,344 votes (12.94%) Democrats.

The two other major items on the ballot this year were the two proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution: one that would include language to state that "nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion" and one — which included a dense and lengthy block of text for voters to read — that would allow the Kentucky General Assembly to call themselves into session without having to rely on the governor to do so.

Both amendments were favored by Pulaski voters — Amendment 1 (dealing with the General Assembly) by a margin of 11,104 votes to 7,408 (59.98% to 40.02%), and Amendment 2, the abortion-related one, by a heavy count of 14,281 votes to 6,285 (69.44% to 30.56%).

However, both failed to pass at the overall state level — even though they were favored by Republicans, who again turned out strong for actual candidates such as Paul and Rogers across what is typically considered a "red" state.

Baker, Somerset's resident member of the State House of Representatives, reacted to the voters' denial of both amendments on Wednesday. Baker likely campaigned as hard for the passage of the abortion-related amendment as he did his own campaign, something he acknowledged in talking with the Commonwealth Journal, and expects the state legislature — which saw an abortion ban trigger go into place following the U.S. Supreme Court's recent reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision — to be in for a "battle," with the State Supreme Court set to decide soon on the constitutionality of the ban, something the proposed amendment was designed to prevent.

"It was a huge disappointment," said Baker. "Last night, I was sitting there before bed, (and I was) glad to win, but it was a little bit bittersweet knowing something so important that would make such a difference didn't actually pass. I was very proud of the people of Pulaski and Laurel County; people in this area voted for it overwhelmingly."

Baker said he thinks the bill's failure statewide is "a reflection of culture" and said a number of factors contributed, including needing better organization by the amendment's supporters about promoting the existence of the amendment and what it actually does and doesn't do, and outside funding supporting the amendment's opponents.

"The opposition had millions of dollars from out-of-state funding, from Planned Parenthood around the nation, from ACLU organizations around the nation," said Baker. "... They're the ones that spread so much misinformation. They implanted doubts and questions in the minds of people. They told them outright lies, and it worked for them.

"The oral arguments before the Kentucky Supreme Court begin next Tuesday, one week after the election," he added. "Those justices aren't looking to interpret and apply law, they're looking to see which way the wind blows, and I will be very surprised if they don't decide to strike (Kentucky's abortion ban) down next week .. and then the question is, where do we go from there? Obviously to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Baker was less surprised about the other amendment not passing.

"It was very lengthy, it was somewhat confusing," he said. "The Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that any proposed language in the Kentucky Constitution has to be on the ballot in its entirety. There's a lot of moving parts to that.

"There were some parts of it I didn't even like," he added, "but I do believe in a balance of power, that we needs checks in government, and (Amendment 1) would have provided that."