It’s Election Day across Southwest Virginia, and while some voters will be looking at a simple ballot with just a few choices, others — particularly in Washington County — will decide multiple contested races, a plethora of candidates and an important referendum.
Polls open at 6 a.m. and remain open until 7 p.m., as voters statewide will select all 40 members of the Virginia state Senate and 100 members of the House of Delegates. There are also some local races up for grabs.
In Washington County, voters will select a sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, commissioner of revenue and treasurer and choose four seats on the Board of Supervisors and four members of the School Board. Three candidates are also on the ballot for three seats on the Holston River District Soil and Water Conservation Board.
Voters countywide will also vote in a referendum about a plan to relocate the Washington County Courthouse from downtown Abingdon to a vacant retail property near Interstate 81’s Exit 17. Voters can choose either yes or no on the ballot question, which reads, “Shall the courthouse be removed to 300 Towne Centre Drive in Abingdon, Virginia, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $30,000,000.00 for purchase and renovation expenses therefor?”
The issue has been debated among elected leaders for much of this year and could spark some additional turnout at the polls.
“In years past, it’s been 40 to 45%, so we could see a slight increase. It could go up to 50, but that’s just a guess,” Deputy Director of Elections Blakely Morris said Monday.
The county saw an increase in absentee voting with 730 voters in the office and just over 300 ballots mailed out, Morris said.
Morris said the registrar’s office has received “a few” general questions about the courthouse referendum but not a large number. The county has 36,342 registered voters.
There are four candidates seeking to replace retiring Sheriff Fred Newman. They include Blake Andis, Greg Hogston, Rex Carter and Marty Berry. In the commonwealth’s attorney race, incumbent Josh Cumbow faces Nicole Price, who held the office prior to him.
Mark Matney and David Henry are contesting the commissioner of revenue race, while Treasurer Fred Parker is unopposed.
Among the Board of Supervisors, in District C, incumbent Allison Mays is challenged by Charlie Hargis. Megan Hamilton is unopposed for the District C School Board seat.
In District F, incumbent Supervisor Saul Hernandez is unopposed, as is School Board incumbent Bill Brooks.
In District D, Wayne Stevens Jr. faces Heather Carlsen for the Board of Supervisors, and Dayton Owens is challenged by Lee Brannon for the School Board seat.
In District A, Supervisor Phillip McCall is being challenged by David Millsap while Elizabeth Payne Lowe is unopposed for the School Board seat.
Both of the region’s state Senate seats feature contested races. In the 38th District, incumbent Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, faces banking executive George McCall of Cedar Bluff. In the 40th District, Del. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, faces independent Ken Heath, the director of economic development in Marion, for the seat held by retiring Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax.
Among the House of Delegates, three incumbents are unopposed. They include 1st District Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, 5th District Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, and 3rd District Del. Will Morefield, R-N. Tazewell.
There are two contested House races in the region. Political newcomers Will Wampler, a Republican from Abingdon, faces Starla Kiser, a Coeburn Democrat, for the 4th District seat currently held by Pillion. In the 6th District, incumbent Jeff Campbell, R-Marion, faces Democratic challenger Jim Barker.
Bristol, Virginia voters will have among the state’s shortest ballots, with the Pillion-Heath state Senate race the only contested slot. Incumbent Israel O’Quinn is unopposed, as is incumbent Clerk of Court Kelly Flannagan Duffy.
“Based on what we saw for absentee voting, we’ll probably be somewhere around 20%,” Registrar Penny Limburg said Monday.
One item that is not on the city ballot, but that has stirred some confusion, Limburg said, is the question about allowing a casino to operate in Bristol. The General Assembly is awaiting a report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission and, pending state action, it would be at least July 1, 2020, before any casino question could appear on a ballot.
“There have been a lot of people coming in to vote [absentee] expecting the casino referendum to be on the ballot, and it is not on the ballot,” Limburg said.
In Smyth County, Kevin Testerman is running against incumbent Chip Shuler in the sheriff’s race, and four Board of Supervisors seats appear on the ballot, including two contested races.
Three men are trying to become sheriff of Wise County, as incumbent Ronnie Oakes isn’t seeking reelection. They include Grant Kilgore, Jake Elkins and Danny Mullins. Four seats on the Board of Supervisors and four on the School Board feature uncontested races.
In Buchanan County, incumbent Sheriff C. Ray Foster is being challenged by John McClanahan and Randall Lester.
Incumbent Sheriff Steve Dye is unopposed in Russell County, but there are four contested Board of Supervisors contests on those ballots.
The weather forecast is for a mild day with mostly sunny conditions and afternoon highs around 60 degrees. Morning lows should be in the upper 30s when polls open at 6 a.m. and near 50 when they close at 7 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.