POWHATAN – With the passing of June 11, the official ballot for the Nov. 5 General Election now shows seven contested races and one school board seat with no certified candidates at all.
On June 11, Ghazala F. Hashmi was chosen in the Democratic Primary for the Virginia Senate District 10 seat to challenge Republican Glen Sturtevant for the seat. This primary was the only race on the ballot for Powhatan voters.
As forecasted from an early lack of interest in absentee voting, the primary saw a very low turnout.
In Powhatan, the results were: Ghazala F. Hashmi, 297 votes; Eileen M. Bedell, 346 votes, and Zachary P. Brown, 109 votes. There were eight undervotes. The 760 ballots cast on June 11 represented 3.5 percent of the county’s 21,520 registered voters, according to Karen Alexander, director of elections.
Hashmi ended up winning the district primary with 49.38 percent of the vote, beating Bedell (40.9 percent) and Brown (9.72 percent).
Alexander said she was expecting about a 3 percent voter turnout for this primary.
“There has been no campaigning by the candidates in Powhatan County, so I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout,” she said.
She believes the main reason the turnout might have been slightly higher than expected was because of confusion among voters who thought a local election would be on the ballot. Her office posted notices on every polling precinct door that there were no local elections on the ballot. A sample ballot was also posted on every door, she said.
“People still ignored that and walked in assuming they could vote on a local election. After receiving their ballot, they were frustrated it wasn’t what they were expecting,” she said. “My poll workers were busier unchecking people out of the poll books and spoiling unused ballots.”
Alexander said poll workers had to spoil more than 200 ballots, which means they weren’t counted at all.
June 11 was also the final deadline for candidates wishing to run in the General Election to have all of their paperwork finalized. The result was that out of the 17 races that Powhatan voters will see on their ballots, seven have more than one candidate.
The District 1 seat for the Powhatan County School Board is the only race without a certified candidate. Rick Cole, who has held the position for two terms, announced at the May 14 school board meeting that he would not seek re-election.
Cole said on June 13 that he had been willing to serve, but was also open to yielding to another candidate if that person had the skills and the passion to serve Powhatan’s students and the community. He said he made his announcement not to run after meeting with a citizen who had said he was interested in running and whom he believed would be a good board member.
“I was very surprised when he decided that he would not run just prior to deadline for submitting the candidacy paperwork. These late developments have caused me to reverse my earlier decision not to run,” Cole said. “Though I am disappointed that I did not have time to collect the signatures necessary to be placed on the ballot, I will now explore seeking the seat as a write-in candidate. I look forward to working to gain the support necessary for serving a third term as the school board representative from District 1.”
Additionally, the race for Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District directors, had two positions open but John Kochensparger is the only certified candidate for the race. Alexander said that with the vacant school board race, if a write-in candidate won but was unwilling to accept the role, a special election would be triggered. But with Monacan Soil and Water, if a write-in winner for the second open position declined the appointment, the conservation board would appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
Three of the board of supervisors races are contested: Sandra Brindley will square off against incumbent David Williams for District 1. Bill Cox and Eddie Whitt are vying for the District 4 seat, and Karin Carmack and Germando Harris are both running for District 5.
Incumbent Larry Nordvig will run unopposed in District 2, as will new candidate Mike Byerly in District 3.
Two of the school board races are contested: incumbent James Kunka will run against Susan Smith in District 2, and incumbent Valarie Ayers and David Mack are vying for District 3.
Joe Walters and Kim Hymel are running unopposed for Districts 4 and 5, respectively.
Among the other local races, the only contest is between incumbent Brad Nunnally and Vince Whittaker for sheriff.
Running unopposed are Richard “Dickie” Cox for commonwealth’s attorney; Faye Barton for treasurer, and Jamie Timberlake for commissioner of the revenue.
R. Lee Ware Jr. will run unopposed for the Virginia House of Delegates 65th District.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.