When the dust settled Wednesday from the previous day’s Republican Primaries three of the contested races will be heading into the runoff portion of the elections system.

Rusk County voters had their say, but candidates in the sheriff’s, county commissioner’s Pct. 1 and constable’s race could not choose a consensus winner. 

Out of the four-man Rusk County Sheriff’s race, incumbent Sheriff Jeff Price and Johnwayne Valdez were the top vote getters. 

Price received 3,791 or 44.39% of the vote. Valdez was second with 2,643 or 30.94% of the vote total. Jesse Steward came in third with nearly 20% of the vote with 1,599 or 18.72%. Nathan Parker had 509 votes or 5.96% of the votes. 

“I was please with the way they came out,” said Price. “We’ve got a lot of work to do over the course of the next two-and-a-half months to get ready for the runoff.”

“Thanks for everyone who came out and voted, and we’re gonna need you to come out in May and vote again.”

In just about all facets of primary elections, a candidate would need to get 50% plus one vote in order to avoid a runoff.

Valdez sounded please with the results, as well.

“The quote I kept hearing was the sheriff failed to get 50% of the vote,” he said. “I’ve gone from the guy nobody knew to a runoff contender for the office of Sheriff. My message is clear and my plan of co-activity is what people want.”

Stewart didn’t waste any time thanking his supporters, but also encouraging them to do more.

“First of all, I appreciate everyone who took the time to vote. I wished there would have been a better turn out,” he said. “I appreciate all the prayers and support of encouragement as I sought the nomination. I look forward to working with whoever wins the office.”

Stewart confirmed Thursday about his post on his campaign website.

“Mr. Valdes ran a clean and respectful campaign. And worked hard to earn the second most votes in this race,” he said. “Johnwayne and I had many of the same goals and Ideas, to make the RCSO more proactive in our community with effective leadership.”

Stewart encouraged his supports to continue what he started.

“The outcome was not in my favor, nor was it enough for any one candidate to gain the necessary majority of votes to avoid a run off election,” he said. “With that being said, I would ask that you support Johnwayne Valdez for Rusk County Sheriff during the run off election in May.”

County Commissioner, Pct. 1

The Rusk County Commissioner’s race in Pct. 1 was an even match of three issue-oriented candidates with no mud slinging.

Randy Gaut turned out to be the front-runner at the polls with 43% of the vote to Shannon Thompson’s 35% of the vote and Will Hale with 21% of the vote. 

Gaut thanks his supporters and asked for continued support.

“Thank you to everyone who supported and voted for me putting me into this runoff with the highest number of votes for Rusk County Commissioner Pct.1,” he said Thursday. “You can be confident in the fact that your continued support is appreciated and crucial for this next phase of my campaign. I am the candidate with the most proven experience and knowledge, with the best vision for both Pct. 1 and Rusk County.”

Thompson showed appreciate for the race and the manner in which it was conducted.

“You know, I knew going into it it was going to be a tough race with those two guys,” he said. I enjoyed meeting the people along the way and meet the ones I didn’t get to meet this time. I want to earn the support of the ones I haven’t talked to yet.” 

“You know, I’d like to compliment Will (Hale) on this race. I admire our race for not having the mud slinging.”

The Constable’s Pct. 1 race was also about as tight for second and third as any of the contests in the county.

Richard Stanley received twice what Michael Smith and Bob Mitchell at over 1,500 votes. 

Smith edged out Mitchell 439 votes to 414 – less that three-point margin.

I’m not really surprised. It’s hard to get the majority in a three-man race,” he said.

I appreciate all of the supports and look forward to their continued support. It’s not over and we still have the two months before the election.”

Michael Smith was also pleased with the outcome so far.

“I am very pleased that I’m making it into a run off,” he said Friday. “We had a split vote on this side of the precinct.  I’m pleased and humbled that I can continue.”

The runoff election is set for May 26, the Tuesday after Labor Day.

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