Hunt wins judge-executive race by a hair

Published 1:14 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Before the votes were counted Tuesday night, outgoing Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney shook Gary Chidester’s hand. “No matter what happens, you ran an honorable race,” McKinney told the Democratic candidate for his seat.

Photo by Robin Hart/
Republican Howard Hunt smiles as his wife gives him a hug after winning the race for Boyle County Judge-executive.

Just before 8:30 p.m., the crowd of more than 50 that packed the Boyle County Clerk’s Office gasped in surprise — some cheered — when the scrolling vote totals showed all precincts reporting and Chidester ahead of his Republican opponent Howard Hunt by a single vote, out of more than 10,000 cast.

But that narrowest of margins would not last long. A single voting machine from Mitchellsburg had not been reported in the digital totals, even though Sheriff Derek Robbins read results from the machine live earlier in the night.

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Boyle County Clerk Trille Bottom said the card out of the machine wasn’t brought to her office with the vote totals, leading to the delay in reporting its votes. There were 35 votes for Hunt on the machine and 17 for Chidester, flipping the result and giving Hunt a 17-vote victory, according to the unofficial results.

Out of 10,759 votes cast, Hunt received 5,388 (50.07 percent) and Chidester received 5,371 (49.92 percent). It’s the first time a Republican has won election to the judge-executive seat in Boyle County since the office was created.

“Tonight has been a roller coaster ride,” Hunt said. “I spoke with several people and we said before this was going to be an historic election. But little did I know how historic it might be.”

The Republican crowd that that gathered at the Holiday Inn Express to celebrate the party’s victories had mostly dispersed by the time Hunt learned of the change in result. When the handful of supporters heard the updated numbers, they cheered and clapped, as Hunt’s wife April, jumped up and gave him a hug.

Earlier in the evening at the courthouse, when Chidester first thought he had won the race he said, “We have to bring this county together. And tonight demonstrated how far apart we are. We’ve got a lot to do.”

Photo by Robin Hart/
Gary Chidester, with his wife Patti by his side, talks on the phone with Boyle County Clerk Trille Bottom as she gives him the news that he lost the judge-executive race by 17 votes.

Later at the Democratic celebration party, Chidester stepped away from the crowd to take a phone call from Bottom, who gave him the news that he had actually lost the election.

“That’s just the way it goes,” Chidester said. “Trille needs to make the announcement. She needs to be able to get all of her stuff together and I respect that.”

He said he would have more to say about the election after the official numbers are in.

According to state law, a candidate can request a recanvassing of the votes in their race by filing a written request with the county clerk’s office. Such a request must be made before 4 p.m. Nov. 13.

If a recanvass is requested, the county election board must meet at 9 a.m. on Nov. 15 to “recheck and recanvass each machine and make a proper return thereof to the county clerk, and the canvass and return shall become the official returns for the election,” according to state law.

State law also allows for candidates to petition for a recount. Such a petition must be filed within 10 days of the election.

“The party requesting the recount shall execute bond with approved surety for the costs of the recount, in an amount to be fixed by the circuit judge,” according to state law.

Once the bond is filed, the judge “shall at once enter an order directing the voting machines, ballots, boxes and all papers pertaining to the election to be transferred to the circuit court, and fix a day for the recount proceedings to begin. … On the day fixed, the court shall proceed to recount the ballots if their integrity is satisfactorily shown and shall complete the recount as soon as practicable.”

Advocate-Messenger staff writers Robin Hart and Bobbie Curd contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the correct procedures related to recanvassing and recounting, according to Kentucky law.