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Family concerns prompt D-5 candidate withdrawal

Blood is thicker than water. In Lincoln County, it’s thickerthan politics, too.

Less than 24 hours after qualifying for elected office ended at 5p.m. Tuesday, one of the last candidates to sign up became thefirst to drop out when Zetus resident Gary Covington withdrew hisRepublican candidacy for supervisor in District Five. Covingtonsaid he terminated his short-lived candidacy because he was afraidhis efforts would draw votes away from his brother-in-law, LincolnCounty Sheriff Steve Rushing, who is seeking a second full term asa Democrat.

“If I ran on the Republican Party, it could have possibly takenvotes away from Steve in the primary, and I’m not going to dothat,” Covington said. “I’m not going to hamper him in hisre-election.”

Rushing, who faces challenges from Democrats Mahundis Brice andJohnny Leggett and Republican Bub Simmons, said he was focused onhis own campaign.

“I have my own race to run, and I don’t get involved in otherpeople’s races,” the sheriff said.

Covington’s withdrawal from the District Five race – the mostheavily contested supervisor contest – shortens the field ofcandidates to five, leaving incumbent Democrat Gary Walker to faceDemocrats Benjie J. Smith and Dudley Nations and RepublicansMichael Assink and Carroll B. Smith.

Only four Republicans remain among the 15 candidates competing forthe five seats at the board of supervisors’ table. Other thanAssink and Smith, David Bowers is challenging District Oneincumbent Democrat the Rev. Jerry Wilson and Howard Williams ischallenging District Three incumbent Democrat NolanWilliamson.

For Republican supporters, at least Covington’s withdrawal comesfrom a race where two other GOP candidates are running.

“I hate to lose any good candidate, but if I had to lose one, I’drather lose it there,” said John Roberts, chairman of the LincolnCounty Republican Party Executive Committee. “This is basically thefirst year we’ve had Republicans running. I think four years fromnow we’ll have someone running for every single post.”