EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSHistoric Mingo County Election Only Draws 30 Percent Turnout
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported: May. 14, 2014 6:17 PM EDT
Updated: May. 15, 2014 4:45 PM EDT
WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- A federal investigation brought down four major officeholders in Mingo County, but on Tuesday night, voters had the chance to make a change and attempt to steer themselves out of the corruption that has plagued the county.
Eyewitness News was there, as major races came down to just a handful of votes.
Despite the historic election to fill the offices for sheriff, prosecutor, judge, commissioner and magistrate, there was only a 30 percent voter turnout in the county. Some candidates said they feared the federal probe would turn people away who have perhaps lost faith completely in Mingo County government.
"We expected a tight race," Greg "Hootie" Smith, the incumbent commissioner who defeated his opponent former Sheriff Lonnie Hannah by just 77 votes, said.
Earlier in the week, Smith had accused Hannah of paying off early voters with $50 checks and steak dinners. They were accusations that Hannah denied.
"Mingo County has been through very difficult time over the past year. Now it's time to unite the county, and it's time for Mingo County to heal and move forward. I look forward to leading Mingo County in that direction," Smith said after his win.
Joining Smith on the county commission, Mingo Clerk "Big" Jim Hatfield defeated his opponents to fill the remainder of David Baisden's unexpired term. Baisden is getting ready to serve 20 months in prison for federal extortion.
"The good Lord has to help us to get this corruption out of this county," Hatfield said.
Mingo County elected current family court Judge Miki Thompson to fill the remainder of disgraced former Judge Michael Thornsbury's unexpired term, winning over Jonathan "Duke" Jewell by roughly 700 votes.
Staying in the courtroom will be interim prosecutor Teresa Maynard, who narrowly defeated her opponent Charles "Butch" West by just 182 votes. She will take over the term of former prosecutor Michael Sparks, who has yet to be sentenced.
"I just feel like I had an obligation to the people in this county. To step up and lead us out of the trouble that we were currently in. I feel very strongly about this county and the people in it and I just wanted to be there for them," Maynard said.
Jim Harvey, a name on the ballot for the last 10 years, coming out victorious in his fight to fill the remainder of former Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler's term.
"Help restore the faith of the people, that they can come to the magistrate and feel that they're being treated fair," Harvey said of his goal in office.
In a landslide win against Roy Tiller, Sheriff James Smith will hold on to his job. He was appointed after Sheriff Eugene Crum was murdered in 2012.
"They're ready for us to get this cloud off us. Move forward, and get Mingo County back on track," Smith said.
It's a chance for change amid an investigation federal authorities have said is not over.
Because there were no Republicans in these races, these Democrats will have no opposition in November.
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