story by Ben Pollock, special to The City Wire
Benton County's incumbent County Judge Bob Clinard, R, was handily beating independent Ronnie L. Smith, according to the county's sparse tallies after midnight Wednesday.
Paper ballot shortages early in the day at several precincts, then long lines of voters waiting their turn well into the night in Garfield and Pea Ridge, kept Benton County officials from issuing totals, which are expected sometime in the morning.
One of Washington County's contested races, for county clerk, saw newcomer Democrat Becky Lewallen win. In the circuit clerk's race, which also pitted political novices, Democrat Mona Piazza lost to Republican Kyle Sylvester in a close race. County officials released tallies for 146 of 150 precincts at 1:23 a.m., on Wednesday.
Washington County Election Commission Chairman John Logan Burrow announced the preliminary but unofficial count. He cautioned the numbers are "subject to revision, as there's a fairly substantial number of provisional ballots and other ballots that need to be hand-counted." Burrow called the turnout for the 2012 General Election – roughly some 70,000 of 110,000 registered voters – likely to be one of the county's highest.
Lewallen and Piazza had been endorsed by their predecessors, who are retiring. Washington County's county clerk is Karen Combs Pritchard and circuit clerk is Bette Stamps, both Democrats.
Clinard said late Tuesday night, “I'm delighted to be allowed to serve the county two more years.”
Smith said earlier Tuesday that if he lost, "I plan to run again in two years. I will march on regardless."
Benton County voters faced unusual delays when some precincts ran out of paper ballots early in the day. Although residents still could cast electronic votes, county officials scurried to have some 6,000 additional paper ballots printed and delivered to the polls by mid-afternoon, according to KFSM-TV. The reason for the shortage was said to be higher-than-anticipated voter turnout with more requests for paper instead of touchscreen ballots. At the close of balloting at 7:30 p.m., long lines remained in Garfield and Pea Ridge; those residents were allowed to cast ballots, but they had to wait up to three more hours.
TOP COUNTY RACES
Benton County Judge
Judge Bob Clinard, R/incumbent, 42,241 (69%)
Ronnie Smith, I, 19,015 (31%)
Washington County county clerk
Becky Lewallen, R, 36,302 (55%)
Ann Upton, D, 29,690 (45%)
Washington County Circuit Clerk
Mona Piazza, D, 32,437 (49%)
Kyle Sylvester, R, 33,757 (51%)
Washington County Assessor
Dan Cypert, D, 27,060 (40%)
Assessor Jeff Williams, R/incumbent, 39,906 (60%)
Washington County Collector
Greg Bradford, D, 22,152 (33%)
Collector David Ruff, R/incumbent, 44,807 (67%)
Washington County treasurer
Treasurer Roger Haney, D/incumbent, 34,024 (52%)
Russ Hill, R, 31,513 (48%)
Washington County officers who won their party primary last spring and faced no opposition Tuesday include County Judge Marilyn Edwards, Sheriff Tim Helder and Coroner Roger Morris, all incumbents and all Democrats.
Two Benton County positions were determined in the spring GOP primary, because there was no Democratic opposition: Kelley Cradduck becomes sheriff in January, and Glenn “Bear” Chaney will begin a second term as assessor.
Unopposed in the GOP primary were Tena O'Brien as county clerk, Brenda DeShields as circuit clerk, Gloria Peterson as collector, Deanna Ratliff as treasurer and Daniel R. Oxford as coroner.