Republicans win three magistrate races in Boyle

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2018


With the election of four new magistrates and a new county judge-executive, the Boyle County Fiscal Court will have a lot of new blood next year.

On Tuesday night, three Republican candidates for magistrate — Tom Ellis, Ronnie Short and Jason Cullen — unseated Democratic incumbents Richard “Dickie” Mayes, Donnie Coffman and Jack Hendricks, respectively. Democrat Jamie Gay beat his Republican challenger Stephen Cline in District 5, where incumbent Patty Burke did not seek re-election.

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Democratic incumbent Phillip Sammons beat his write-in challenger, John Westerfield, and Democratic incumbent John Caywood ran unopposed.

In District 4, political newcomer and local businessman Republican Jason Cullen beat incumbent Jack Hendricks by a vote of 1,016 to 818. Independent Joe Lamkin received 197 votes.

On Wednesday morning, Cullen said he was hopeful he would win the seat, but “I never expected to win … Jack has a pretty big name.”

Cullen said he shook a lot of hands in his district and what he heard most from voters was that they believed they needed change on fiscal court.

“The same people doing the same thing … that’s just insanity electing the same people, expecting different results,” Cullen said. “We need new, fresh choices.”

Cullen said he’s tired of campaigning and “talking about myself. I just want to get the job done” by becoming active on fiscal court.

“I’ve already heard from the constituents. They feel the fourth district has been neglected.” There are dumping issues and road issues, he said. “And Goggin Lane is in terrible shape. I’ve talked with (Rep.) Elliott already,” and he’s working to help get some of the county’s roads fixed, Cullen said.

“I want to make sure Junction (City) feels welcome,” Cullen said. He also will work to unify the entire county. “There’s no more Boyle County vs. Danville vs. Perryville vs. Junction City.”

Cullen said he appreciates the positive campaign that Hendricks ran “and for all of his service to the community.”

On Wednesday, Hendricks said he didn’t have a clue as to why he lost the race, other than that the Republicans “put together a real campaign and really worked hard at it.”

He said what really bothers him the most is that it appeared “Washington politics finally made their way to Boyle County.”

Hendricks said, “I’ve worked my buns off to do what’s right” for this county and his district for the past eight years. “If they (the voters) can be turned away from me with my record,” he said he would probably not run for office again. “I think the people have spoken.”

Hendricks said fiscal court will be trying to solve many serious problems in the near future. “I hope and pray they do. I don’t want to see them fail.”

In District 1, Ellis received 965 votes while incumbent Mayes had 935 votes. On Wednesday morning, Ellis said, “It was unbelievably close.”

He said in the weeks he spent knocking on doors and talking with farmers on tractors, he heard constituents express their desire to have a change on fiscal court “and a strong voice to meet their needs.” He said, “I became quite familiar with west Boyle County.”

Ellis said with the election of Republican Howard Hunt as judge-executive and the three new Republican magistrates, “we will have four of the seven votes on fiscal court.”

When the new fiscal court meets for the first time, the issues to tackle “will be like stepping on a rake in tall grass and it hits you in the face.” The largest concern to address right off the bat will be what to do with the jail and its overcrowding. The county will need to decide if the current jail needs refurbishing, rebuilding or constructing a brand new multi-county jail. Ellis said cost estimates are coming in between $30 million and $50 million.

“We can’t create funds. We’re going to have to delve very deeply into an already strapped Boyle County budget,” Ellis said.

In addition, Ellis said he is “quite familiar with west Boyle County” and its narrow country roads and will work to improve cell-phone service to that area. In fact, earlier on Wednesday morning, he said he had confirmed that AT&T is planning on adding a cell tower within the next two years in the Forkland area. “That will help all of us out there.”

Ellis said he looks forward to working with a group who “will get along very well and achieve the goals for the community.”

Mayes did not return a call for comment on Wednesday.

In District 2, Republican Ronnie Short beat Democratic incumbent Donnie Coffman, who has served as magistrate for 16 years. The final reported vote was 852 for Short to 598 for Coffman.

Short said he wasn’t surprised that he won the election. “I heard everybody say they wanted a change, both Democrats and Republicans,” Short said. “They hated the lack of not doing anything. I thought I really had a great shot. I feel energized.”

He said he was looking forward to “getting something done for Junction City” and a number of other things to improve the county like increasing jobs, working on its infrastructure and improving the jail.

As a school bus driver, Short said he is fully aware of water and flooding problems in his district. He also wants to improve the roads with striping to make the road safer for drivers.

He said Junction City has been neglected for too long. “There’s a number of different things that has got to change.”

He said once in office, he will also work with the magistrate from Perryville to get something done and lower the higher water and sewer bills and taxes that “we got hit with.”

Short said he will also work to update or improve the Junction City community room where the city council also meets, and the fire department could use some updates. “It’s been neglected so bad for so long in Junction City. It’s time to get something done.”

Coffman did not return a call for comment on Wednesday.

Democrat Jamie Gay beat Republican Stephen Cline for magistrate of District 5 by a vote of 903 to 507.

On Wednesday, Gay said he was looking forward to getting to work. He said what he heard most from voters in his district was that they were most concerned about the working relationship between the county and the City of Danville. “I hope we can hit the ground running and work together.”

“The jail is the big elephant in the room,” he said.

Gay said he needs to do a lot more “homework” on the issue of jail overcrowding and if a new facility needs to be built. “I’ll be asking a lot of questions and learning about the process,” Gay said.

He said he believes the Parks and Rec department should be a countywide endeavor and he wants to help empower the board to make the best decisions for the the county’s parks.

Gay said he thinks his experience as a former city commissioner will also help him “bridge the gap” between city and county government. “I’ll have to learn the county-side of it … but having an understanding will be an asset.”

Republican challenger Stephen Cline said he met a lot of wonderful people and reconnected with old friends while campaigning. “I knew I had an uphill battle with Jamie and his name recognition. I was hoping I would have had a little closer outcome.”

“I wasn’t disappointed that I got beat, but more in my poor showing,” Cline said. “But it was my first race.”

He said he was going to continue attending city commission and fiscal court meetings and become more involved in community organizations. Cline said if he runs for either city or county office again, he wouldn’t try to do it on his own like he did this election.

“I just thought I could do it door-knocking, but I learned I can’t. I was just hoping to get in there and try to represent the people as best I could.”

John Caywood, Democratic magistrate who was unopposed for re-election and received 1,429 votes, said on Wednesday he was looking forward to working with the people that voters “put in the chairs around the table.” He said fiscal court has many issues to deal with and he is confident all the magistrates will work together for the citizens of the county.

“We’ll do the very best that we can … I work with whoever the voters put into place.”

Sammons did not return a call for comment Wednesday. He won the election with 1,007 votes with write-in candidate John Westerfield receiving 114 votes.