Third District primary results set up Harper-Gill rematch

Published 7:19 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Voter turnout in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election wasn’t asbad as originally predicted.

It was worse.

Only 347 of Lincoln County’s 24,040 registered voters found timeto head to their polling places during the election’s 12-hour span,compiling a vote total that represented 1.5 percent of the county’sregistered voter force.

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Based on the small vote totals, Pickens Mayor Joel Gill carriedthe county and the entire 3rd Congressional District. He will go onto face incumbent Republican Gregg Harper in the general electionon Nov. 2.

Gill’s 179 votes represented almost 52 percent of the totalvotes cast Tuesday, giving him a two-to-one edge over second-placefinisher James Jackson of Brandon, who tallied 95 votes for 27percent. Third-place candidate Shawn O’Hara managed only 70 votes,or 20 percent of all votes cast, though the repeat candidate fromHattiesburg did carry the box with the county’s largestturnout.

District-wide with almost all precinct reporting, Gill won theday by amassing 3,651 votes, with Jackson and O’Hara following with2,029 and 1,251 votes, respectively.

Gill is in the clear until November, and no runoff election willbe necessary – which is outstanding news for local taxpayers, whoforked out big bucks for the ballots cast Tuesday night. With theelection expected to cost upward of $10,000, taxpayers will end uppaying about $29 for every single vote cast in the contest.

The math is maddening for local election officials.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Lincoln County Circuit ClerkTerry Lynn Watkins. “One thing this vote says is people are just sosick of government, so disillusioned with government. But whatpeople fail to realize is they’re not helping that situation bystaying at home.”

None of the county’s 32 precincts recorded more than a handfulof votes Tuesday, with an average of 11 votes cast at eachsite.

The polling place that saw the most action was Bogue Chitto,which took in 26 votes throughout the day. O’Hara’s 13 votescarried the Bogue Chitto box, with Gill managing 12 votes forsecond place. Jackson managed one vote there.

On the other end of the spectrum was the Halbert Heightsprecinct. Situated in the middle of a Republican stronghold, thepolling place was doomed to see a pitiful turnout from the start,and only two voters cast ballots there. Gill and Jackson split thevotes.

On the whole, Watkins said Tuesday’s election went off basicallywithout a hitch, with small participation generating few problems.There were no absentee ballots cast, and only one voter had to voteby affidavit when her name was not listed in her precinct’s voterroll. The roll was incorrect, and her vote was counted.

Watkins said November’s turnout will be bigger, but likely notbreathtaking. The biggest race in the general election willprobably be Harper versus Gill, with several judiciary candidatesrunning unopposed and only one local election for a seat on theLincoln County School Board.

Helen Funk, chairman of the Lincoln County Democratic ExecutiveCommittee, said Gill carried the county and district most likelybecause of name recognition. Gill had respectable numbers in his2008 loss to Harper in the same contest, gathering 5,720 votes inLincoln County – 35 percent – and 116,706 votes across thedistrict.

“This was Mr. Jackson’s first time out, and Mr. O’Hara has beenon the ballot so many times and so long, people just don’t care tovote for him,” Funk said.