Seven votes separate Jones, Letson in District 4 contest

By Dave Russell 

Trailing by only seven votes following Friday’s official canvass, Republican candidate for Jackson County Commission District 4, Mark Letson, has asked for a recount. With the difference between the two candidates at less than 1 percent, the Jackson County Board of Elections will send the ballots back through the tabulators.

The race for District 4 saw former commissioner, Democrat Mark Jones, with 10,374 votes at the close of the polls on Nov. 3. At that point, he had just nine more than Republican Mark Letson, a political newcomer and co-owner of Cashiers Valley Pharmacy.

Following the canvass, Jones had 10,452 votes to 10,445 for Letson, a difference of seven.

In part, the final result came down to 101 provisional ballots that were counted in the canvass. The Board of Elections did not approve 265 provisional ballots.

Absentee, or mail-in, ballots that were postmarked on Election Day or earlier and received between Nov. 3-12 also figured into the canvass numbers.

“There were 76 mail-ins that were counted, and there were two that were postmarked after the date or did not have a date postmarked on them,” Jackson County Board of Elections Director Lisa Lovedahl said.

The winner will replace Republican Mickey Luker, who did not seek a second term.

“Right now the board has the recount scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, as long as we will also be able to do all the state recounts that might be requested,” Lovedahl said Monday afternoon.

The State Board of Elections announced Tuesday there would be a recount in the Supreme Court chief justice race between incumbent Cheri Beasley and Associate Justice Paul Newby.

Newby, a Republican, led with 2,695,092 (50 percent) to 2,695,536 (50 percent) for Beasley, a Democrat.

A candidate in a statewide race can request a recount if they trail by less than 10,000 votes. All 100 county boards of elections will conduct recounts of their ballots by running them through tabulators. Counties are responsible for costs.

The recount should take about five hours and will be open to the public, Lovedahl said.

“There were 21,504 ballots that were counted in all, and all of those will have to go back through the scanner again,” she said. “Everything from one-stop (early voting), Election Day, absentees and provisionals.”

The state might require local boards to hold off until a later date for the statewide recounts, and the recount in County Commission District 4 would have to wait until that time, she said.

In the other commission race, Republican Tom Stribling handily won District 3.

Stribling, a small businesses owner, totaled 11,236 votes after Election Day and was up to 11,322 following canvassing. 

His opponent, Democrat Susan Bogardus, a dietitian at Cherokee Hospital, finished with 9,416 votes after the polls closed on Nov. 3 and added 70 votes in the canvass.

Democrats will have a 4-1 or 3-2 edge on the commission for the next two years depending on the outcome of the District 4 race. The seats of Chairman Brian McMahan and commissioners Boyce Deitz and Gayle Woody, all Democrats, will be up in 2022.

A $20 million bond referendum to build an indoor pool at the Cullowhee Recreation Center passed with 10,374 yes votes (51.4 percent) to 9,897 no votes (48.6 percent) after Election Day.

The canvass results bumped the totals up to 10,550 yes votes and 9,970 no votes.

Randy Cabe was unopposed for the non-partisan seat as Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.