CHARLESTON — Even. Dead tied. Even-Steven.
That’s where the Democrat nomination for one of two seats in the state house of delegates stood after canvassing was completed Tuesday evening in Lincoln County. The 22nd District, represented by two delegates, had a clear winner in first place among the Democrats. There, incumbent Jeff Eldridge of Lincoln County far outdistanced his two rivals.
But after former Lincoln school board member Gary McCallister picked up nine votes and incumbent Josh Barker of Boone gained just four in the Lincoln County canvass, the pair were tied for the second position.
Barker is another of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s appointees who have difficulty holding his seat. He was appointed to the house by Tomblin after former Delegate Josh Stowers resigned to take a position in the state treasurer’s office. Barker campaigned as the incumbent delegate and handily defeated McCallister in the district outside Lincoln. Also included are parts of Boone, Logan and Putnam counties. But McCallister piled up a nearly two-to-one margin on Barker in Lincoln to make the race close.
Election night, Tuesday, May 13, Barker was listed as unofficially leading McCallister by just three votes, district-wide. After Boone, Logan and Putnam completed their vote canvasses Monday, May 19, Barker had gained one vote in Putnam and one in Logan to make his lead five votes. But Lincoln County, which did not complete its canvass until about 6 p.m., Tuesday, swayed the race to a tie by giving McCallister an additional five-vote margin.
Several observers at the Lincoln County election center in Hamlin expressed disappointment as the results were announced. Nobody seemed sure of the next step, although state election law gives any candidate 48 hours from the time a result is declared to ask for a recount. The widespread assumption was that such a count would be requested by one or both of the candidates.
A secretary of state’s office observer, who had offered advice during the Lincoln canvass, left before the final results were revealed and was not available to answer questions regarding the process as it moves forward.
“I expect we’ll see a recount,” said Lincoln County Commissioner Charles Vance, who was a member of the canvassing board by virtue of his office. Barker had said before the results were announced that, “even if I only lose by one vote, if I lose, I will concede and support Gary (McCallister).” He could not be reached for comment following the announcement of the results. McCallister, who was present in Hamlin when the totals were announced, indicated he had not yet decided what to do about the results.
Regardless of who wins the second Democrat slot, a spirited election is expected this fall when Michel Moffatt and Justin Mullins run as Republicans. Those two were unopposed in the GOP primary.