Early Voting Period Now Underway for March Primary
Early voting began Tuesday, Feb. 16 for the upcoming March 1, preferential primary election in Arkansas. Here in Clay County there are two county wide races which will decide the next county judge and sheriff. Local residents will also vote in three nonpartisan judge races, along with the presidential primaries. Normally, the early voting period would have begun on Monday, but the start was pushed-back to Tuesday due to the President's Day holiday.
Former State Representative Mike Patterson, of Piggott, is facing Jeff Young, of Pollard, for Clay County Judge in the Democrat primary. An overview of the candidates in that race may be found in the Feb. 24 edition of the CCTD. Meanwhile, Sheriff Terry Miller, of Corning, has drawn opposition from the man he replaced as Gerald McClung, of Rector, has thrown his hat into the ring and they'll also meet in the Democratic primary.
Terry Miller of Corning was sworn-in as Sheriff of Clay County on Jan. 1, 2015, following his victory over incumbent sheriff Gerald McClung in the May 20 Democratic Primary. Miller, a native of Corning, was then unopposed in November's general election.
A 1975 graduate of Corning High School, Miller served in the United States Air Force after high school, where he was stationed in North Dakota. Following his service he returned home to Clay County, joining the Corning Police Department in 1983. Miller also worked as a deputy with the Clay County Sheriff's Department briefly in 1987, beginning in January before leaving to work with the Arkansas State Highway Patrol in November of that year. He remained with the state police until his retirement in 2009, having received the rank of patrol sergeant.
Miller says he is happy to have the opportunity to serve the people of Clay County.
"I'm pleased with what we've been able to accomplish in my first term as far as working on the problem of drug enforcement," Miller said of his efforts in office. "We've made a lot of arrests, and we were able to solve a series of burglaries which had been a big problem."
Miller also points to the efforts of such programs as DARE, and the benefits realized. "We want Clay County to be a safer place for everyone, that's our goal," he surmised. "We've also tried to do everything we could to stretch a dollar, and get the most for the taxpayer's money."
Although it is a separate department, Miller also notes the separation of the 911 dispatchers and the jailers has been a positive change.
"We updated the 911 system and moved the dispatchers out of the jail area and now have dedicated dispatchers," he explained. "With the costs associated we wanted to insure we can provide the quickest reaction time when a call is made by the public. This new method provides us with the best service possible to the people of Clay County."
He also noted the change had been suggested by insurance companies as part of a risk management plan.
"I feel we've done a better job of communicating with the public too, and have worked hard to keep them informed by way of the media and social media, too," he added. "We're looking forward to continuing to serve the people of Clay County and will do all we can to make this a better place to live and raise a family."
Miller and his wife, Janice, are the parents of three daughters, Amanda of Corning, Jennifer of Crockett and the late Jessica.
Gerald McClung served three terms sheriff and collector, falling to Miller in the Democratic primary in 2014. He has been a resident of Clay County for nearly 40 years, having retired from the Arkansas State Police with 32 years of service. He and his wife, Kay, have raised their three sons, Greg, Heath and Matt, in Clay County and now have several grandchildren.
"I ran for office again because I had a lot of people asked me to run, and I still have things that I'd like to do for Clay County," McClung said of his candidacy. "When I was the sheriff we brought in about $400,000 a year for housing prisoners, and I think that was down about $100,000 the first year I was out. I saved this county money, and I would continue to do so if elected."
McClung noted his plan for leasing vehicles and seeking grant funds were also beneficial. "We sent a deputy to Little Rock to learn about grants, and used that to buy vehicles and equipment and I plan to do more of that." He also reiterated his support for fighting drugs in the county, and providing support to the DARE program and other efforts.
"I also want to assure the people who live out in the county they will once again see patrols on their roads," he added. "We'll do our part to help the cities when needed, but our main concern is to take care of the rural parts of Clay County."
Meanwhile, the remaining county elected officials all filed for re-election and will stand un-opposed in the Democratic primary. The incumbents include County Clerk Pat Poole, Circuit Clerk Janet Luff-Kilbreath, Treasurer Carolyn Morrisett, Assessor Tracy Gurley and Coroner Paul Wayne Hoggard.
As for the presidential candidates in the Democratic primary, they include, in the order they will appear-James Valentine, Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, John Wolfe and Martin J. O'Malley.
Meanwhile, those voting in the Republican primary will choose from Gov. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Donald J. Trump, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, John R. Kasich and Carly Fiorina.
Although many of the candidates have dropped out of the presidential race, all those are included who met the state guidelines and were included in the ballot draw.
Voters are also reminded they may only vote in one primary, so those wanting to cast ballots in the local Democratic primary may not also vote in the GOP presidential primary. Separate ballots are provided for each based on Arkansas law.
Meanwhile, a total of eight of the nine JPs are running for re-election unopposed, including Richie Culver in district one, Mike Hill in district two, Jody Henderson in district three, David Cagle in district four, Jeff Douglas in district five, Dennis Haines in district six, Greg Ahrent in district seven and John Mansker in district nine. Meanwhile, Duane Blanchard is running as a Republican for the district eight seat which had been occupied by Jim Clifton, who had been appointed to fill-out an unexpired term.
Under state law an appointed JP cannot seek re-election to the seat unless no one else files to seek the position. This provision also allows Mike Hill to serve another term for district two, despite the fact he was filling out the unexpired term of the late Ryan Rogers.
Constables filing, and running unopposed, included Gary Dunlap at Pollard, Ricky Wyss for Payne and Swain, Mike Mansker of Bennett and Lemmons, Terry Ladd for Gleghorn and South Kilgore, James A. Clifton in Brown and Carpenter, Vernie Carpenter in Cleveland and North Kilgore and Elmo Hollis in North St. Francis.
Two Democrats have filed for constable from East Oak Bluff, as Todd Watson and Alan Cavanass will meet in the primary.
And, in West Oak Bluff Constable Fred Bucy is facing Farren Young in the Democratic primary, with the winner slated to meet Republican Terry Robertson in the General Election.
One of the nonpartisain races is for State Supreme Court Chief Justice, Position One, with Judge Dan Kemp facing State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson. Another is for the State Supreme Court Associate Justice, Position Five, between Clark W. Mason and Judge Shawn A. Womack. The third is for Circuit Judge, District Two, Division Six, Subdistrict 2.1 between Tonya Alexander and Curtis Walker, Jr.
Early voting will continue from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, at the county clerk's offices in Piggott and Corning. Early votes may also be cast from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 29. The polls will be open throughout the day on Tuesday, March 1, for balloting in the primary election.
Those wanting additional information may call the clerk's office at 870 598-2813.