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Clerk race runoff Tuesday

Almost a year after the office became vacant, Lincoln County voters will select a new county circuit clerk on Tuesday.

     Facing off against each other in the Nov. 27 runoff will be Dustin Bairfield and Janie Sisco.

     In the Nov. 6 general election that saw eight candidates vying for the circuit clerk post, Bairfield captured first place with 27 percent of ballots cast, or 4,332 votes. That was about half of the more the more than 50 percent needed to win the race without a runoff.

     Sisco came in second place and secured her place in the runoff with 15 percent of the ballots, or 2,471 votes.

     Whichever candidate emerges victorious on Tuesday will take office once the election is certified, said interim Circuit Clerk Sherry Jordan. Either Bairfield or Sisco will serve the remaining three years of former circuit clerk Terry Lynn Watkins’ unexpired term.

     Sisco previously was District Four election commissioner. She resigned that office in January to seek the circuit clerk’s office after serving three years of her first term. Sisco has said her experience running elections will provide for a smooth transition into the clerk’s office.

     Bairfield is a captain with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and has touted his more than 20 years of law enforcement experience. He previously ran for the circuit clerk’s office in 2011 against the then-incumbent Watkins.

     However, Watkins pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in January a week into her fifth term and resigned, part of a plea deal to avoid a felony embezzlement trial.

     Lincoln County supervisors appointed Jordan interim circuit clerk until the special election. She pledged not to run for the office as a condition of her appointment.

     More than 66 percent of Lincoln County voters participated in the Nov. 6 special election, which coincided with the country’s presidential election.

     Officials expect turnout to be much lower Tuesday. The circuit clerk’s runoff will be the only race on the ballot, and Jordan has said she fears that will result in very low participation.

     However, as of Saturday morning, the final day of absentee voting for the runoff, deputy circuit clerks estimated more than 200 absentee ballots would probably be cast in the race.

     The candidates both agreed turnout will be vital to victory.

     “That’s going to be the key, getting the people back to the polls for that one race,” Sisco said.

     Bairfield echoed this comment and said it would be important to inform voters there was a runoff coming.

     Both candidates also agree that this is a race Lincoln County voters need to pay attention to.

     “Hopefully people will realize this is a very important race,” said Sisco, describing the duties of the office and its role in the criminal justice system.

     Said Bairfield, “I think the election itself is very important for our county.”