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Winner rejoices, then deflated  (AR)

Warren Watkins   The Daily Citizen   22 May 2008

A major inconsistency in unofficial election results, brought to light by a candidate Wednesday, resulted in a change in the results for the circuit judge's race in Tuesday's election.

The first tallies released at 1 a.m. Wednesday showed Mark Derrick had been elected as the new circuit judge for the 17th Judicial District, including White and Prairie counties, by 91 votes. But later Wednesday, district judge candidate Robert Hudgins came to the courthouse to point out a wide disparity in number of votes cast in his race and the circuit judge's race.

A 3,954-vote disparity was reported for ballots cast in the circuit judge's race (11,567) compared to the number of ballots cast in the district judge's race (7,613) concerning only White County voters.

When Hudgins brought the discrepancy to the attention of the White County Election Commission, a recount of votes was announced for 7 p.m. Wednesday. The results of the recount completely changed the totals of every race in the county and changed the outcome of one - the circuit judge's race.

The latest round of results, released at 9 p.m. Wednesday, show Derrick with 3,112 votes to Tom Hughes' 3,095 in White County, a lead of seven votes. But in Prairie County, Hughes prevailed by a margin of 544 votes, with Hughes getting 1,020 and Derrick 476, giving Hughes the final victory by 537 votes.

“I'd like to thank all the people that helped me in the race,” Hughes said. “I extend my sympathy to my opponent and his family. I know it's difficult to work hard as Mark did and find your goal is not achieved.”

Derrick experienced the thrill of winning and the agony of defeat within 25 hours.

“We ran the race and their supporters turned out and we didn't have enough supporters,” Derrick said. “The people have spoken, and that's a good thing about our democratic system. My son's glad there's no more fish fries.”

Dianne Thomas, Chairman of the White County Election Commission, explained why the mistakes were made.

“What happened last night was there was a procedural error in the reading of the PEBs [Programmable Electronic Ballots],” said Thomas. “Last night we read early votes from the PEB's and it doubled it.”

County judge

Dennis Gillam defeated Barth Grayson for the Democratic nomination for White County Judge, the county's chief administrative officer.

“I just appreciate the people,” Gillam said. “It was a low voter turnout, with low numbers everywhere. It showed people's frustrations with the government and the voting process.”

Gillam said he had plans for his campaign between now and November, when he will face Republican incumbent Michael Lincoln and independent Valentine “Levi” Huffman.

“I want to get in front of the public that it's their county government and it doesn't belong to the special interests,” Gillam said.

Searcy District Judge

Mark Pate and Phyllis Worley will face each other in a run-off Nov. 4, the same day as the general election, in the race for Searcy District Judge, according to unofficial results. State law requires a run-off if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of votes cast.

“Campaigns are difficult,” Pate said. “We worked hard, and I appreciate my wife, my sister and my family for their support. I also commend the other candidates, those that were successful and those that weren't, and their supporters for their hard work. I'd like to say thank you to everyone that came out and supported us.”

Pate said one issue stands out in his mind as he considers the run-off campaign.

“I'd like to emphasize a better understanding of the court system and the distinctions between the county, circuit and district courts, because I think there was some confusion there,” Pate said. “We've got a long year.”

Worley said she was exhausted by the campaign and the late-night results.

“We're zero to zero, ready to start all over. I got in bed at 1:30 a.m. and went to court this morning,” Worley said. “I appreciate the confidence the voters have put in me and I look forward over the next five and a half months of getting out and renewing old acquaintances.”

Worley said she will continue to run on her record.

“I still maintain that I have the best experience for the position,” Worley said. “My integrity and trustworthiness has never been questioned.”

Justices of the Peace

District 2 Justice of the Peace Marvin Fisher was defeated in a bid for re-election to the White County Quorum Court amid controversy over mistaken ballots.

White County Election Commission Chairman Dianne Thomas said a problem was discovered in the Union Township after “about five” voters had already cast ballots. Thomas drove to the poll site and delivered paper ballots. Those ballots were counted in the unofficial totals.

“It's part of democracy,” Fisher said in reaction to his apparent loss. “The people have voted for someone else to represent them. I congratulate him for winning.”

Fisher said a re-count was possible, and that he would be studying the results.

“I requested a list of all the people that voted Republican in all five precincts in my district,” Fisher said.

A comparison should show discrepancies, Fisher said, and if the disputed total is more than 15, which was the margin of victory for Burns, Fisher will appeal.

“I certainly don't blame the election commission or the county clerk or the poll workers,” Fisher said. “I think it was a problem with the programmer they hired. He just didn't get everything in the PEB [Programmable Electronic Ballot] he was supposed to.”

In other justice of the peace races, incumbent Horace Taylor fended off a challenge in District 1 by Cathy (Fisher) Foster.

In District 5, Jimmy House was re-elected despite a challenge by Julius Odom.

Searcy City Council

In Ward 1, Position 2, Searcy alderman Mary Ann Arnett was re-elected despite a challenge by for Calvin Mitchell.

In Ward 2, Position 2, Steve Sterling overcame Dan Hodges.

In Ward 3, Position 1, incumbent Dale English withstood a challenge by W.H. “Cotton” Fuller.

In Ward 4, Position 2, Gene Hill was unable to unseat incumbent Mike Chalenburg.

The Ward 1, Position 1 race between incumbent Carl Nutter and Democratic challenger Philip Williams remains the only undecided race, appearing on the November ballot.


In House District 49, Johnny Wheetley was defeated for the Democratic nomination by Kieth Williams. Williams will face Republican Jonathan Dismang in November.

In House District 58, Jody Dickinson was placed in a run-off.

Other races

The Cadron Township Constable race was won by Curtis Elliott despite a challenge by Wayne Knobloch.

The Liberty Township Constable race was won by Phillip Simpson over Kerwin Cox.

The Kensett Recorder/Treasurer's race was won by Linda Fuller over Louise Chatmon.

The Kensett Alderman's race for Ward 2, Position 1 was won by Jackie Rogers over Andrew Stipes.

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