Three supervisors push for early election

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, February 7, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

A divided Board of Supervisors will ask the circuit Court to set a special election for sheriff in July. The election is needed to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Mark Marshall, who is retiring at the end of February. 

Despite repeated recommendations by the secretary of the Electoral Board to simply add it to the November general election, the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to petition the circuit court for a July 24 election date. 

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Chairman Rudolph Jefferson and Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice cast the two dissenting votes — as they did for the May election attempt that later turned out not to be allowed due to a pending primary in June. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty stressed the need for an earlier election date as “the importance of embracing our citizens’ voices.” 

McCarty, as well as Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree and Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie, said they had received numerous communications from residents favoring an election earlier than November.

Jefferson said he had received no such communications and in a phone interview Friday, Grice said he received one phone call that was against the May election, but that was it.  

“Why incur the cost,” he said. A July election could cost upwards of $20,000.

Jefferson was concerned that a July election, held during the traditional summer vacation period, would result in a low turnout.

Isle of Wight County Electoral Board Secretary William Bell Jr. said the average sheriff’s race, held in November, generally produces a 45 percent turnout. 

In comparison, an election for Sen. John Cosgrove, which was held in August 2013 in five precincts, had a 2 percent turnout, according to Isle of Wight County Registrar Lisa Betterton.

Bell said a turnout could not be predicted for a July election. 

Acree said that residents who contacted him had raised the argument that those who vote in July know the candidate and are not just marking a box. 

Acree and McCarty did not believe the residents who had contacted them had a special agenda or favored any one candidate over another. 

“It’s none of my business,” said Acree about the motivations of those clamoring for an election date other than November. 

McCarty said he did not suspect “malice” on the part of those who were calling for an earlier election. 

Already, two individuals have announced they plan to run for Marshall’s expired term, and both are with the Sheriff’s Office — Major James Clarke and Lt. James Pope.

Clarke, as the top ranking deputy, will serve as interim sheriff until the election. 

Marshall’s term expires Dec. 31, 2019. Marshall is resigning nearly two years early to join his family opening a brewery on the Eastern Shore. His last day on the job is Feb. 28.

Whoever wins the special election would have to run again for a new four-year term in 2019, with an election that November. 

According to state law, the Electoral Board is to announce the filing deadline for candidates within three days of the writ for a special election, but that’s for a Board of Supervisors member, said Isle of Wight Deputy Registrar Viki Mainwaring. 

Mainwaring was unable to find a law referring to a special election called for a sheriff, and so far, there hasn’t been a writ for a July 24 election. 

Bell is checking with state officials concerning the deadline, she said.  {/mprestriction}