By C.V. Moore
In a parking lot outside the Fayette County Courthouse Tuesday evening, election workers stood in the cold, waiting for vehicles to roll up and unload boxes of ballots that were then heaved upstairs in a human chain.
In Circuit Judge John Hatcher’s chambers on the second floor of the county courthouse, workers sat at tables busily tabulating votes amid the hum of a jogger.
As paper ballots came in, workers placed them in the jogger to straighten the edges before running them through an electronic scanner.
Downstairs in the county clerk’s office, local politicians kept a watchful eye on election results via the Internet and television.
Tom Syner and company from the low-power FM station WQAZ broadcast all the developments live to a grateful listening public.
The WQAZ broadcast is a local tradition of eight years, but former state Sen. Shirley Love has been broadcasting election results for upwards of 50.
“He’s got that mic. He knows the precincts. He’s talking to the people of Fayette County. It’s exciting to watch him in his element doing radio,” says WQAZ station manager Syner.
Syner, too, is clearly in his element.
“Listen to the energy in this room, the excitement,” he says. “I think this is exactly what radio is — to communicate from the local perspective exactly what’s going on in Fayette County.”
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The only competitive local race in Fayette was for magistrate, where five candidates vied for four positions.
Samuel “Sam” Parsons, Leonard H. Bickford, Sharon R. McGraw and Danita G. Young will take the office this year.
Randy Prince of Danese was the lone Republican on the county’s magistrate ticket, and he took 14 percent of the vote with 35 precincts reporting.
It was magistrate candidate Leonard Bickford’s first time running for office. Bickford is retired from 31 years of service as Fayette County sheriff’s deputy. Usually on election night, he walks the floors of the courthouse on security duty. But not on Tuesday. Instead, he sat with family and watched the results come in.
“The way I got elected was a close-knit family and lots and lots of friends,” he says. “I never was in politics, although I always listened to people talking.”
“I thank everyone for having enough confidence in me to vote for me. I will do everything in my power not to let them down. I will be honest. I will be fair and I will serve with pride and integrity.”
The remainder of the county races were uncontested. Democrat Matt England will fulfill the unexpired term of 14th Circuit Family Court Judge, which runs until 2016. England was appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to take over for retired Judge Janet Steele in October 2011. He formerly served as Fayette County assistant prosecutor for six years.
Matthew Wender and Denise Scalph, both Democrats, will continue to serve as Fayette County Commissioners.
Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris, Sheriff Steve Kessler and Assessor Harvey “Eddie” Young will all likewise continue at their posts.
Bill Laird of Oak Hill will continue to serve as Fayette County’s representative in the 10th Senatorial District, which includes Fayette, Greenbrier, Summers and Monroe counties. He ran unopposed.
Laird is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Vice Chair of the Health and Human Resources committee. His committee memberships include Agriculture, Education, Military, Finance, and the Select Committee on Redistricting.
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Voter turnout was strong in Fayette, with approximately 54 percent making it to the polls, compared with 28 percent during the spring primary.
“It’s a tremendous turnout any way you look at it,” says County Clerk Kelvin Holliday. “That’s healthy in a democracy.”
Holliday says the process went smoothly, although Fayette’s use of paper ballots slowed it down considerably as workers duplicated disfigured and improperly marked ballots.
Despite a loss of three voting days due to Hurricane Sandy, a total of 2,502 citizens cast early votes, and 230 voted absentee. Those votes are combined with the Tuesday evening returns.
Among others, the Pax precinct 17 had a strong Republican showing in Tuesday’s election. Sixty percent voted a straight Republican ticket. Romney, Snuffer, and Maloney all beat out their Democratic contenders.
Likewise in precinct 58 —which includes Mountain Cove, Ramsey, and Clifty — where Romney took 71 percent of the vote.
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