CHARLESTON — It’s over.
The lengthy battle to fill the second Democrat nomination for house of delegates in the 22nd District ended Friday morning when incumbent Delegate Josh Barker conceded a one-vote defeat to challenger Gary McCallister. The 22nd District includes most of Lincoln County and parts of Boone, Logan and Putnam,
In an epic battle, election night results May 13 showed Barker the winner by three votes. But canvassing of ballots in all four counties left the pair deadlocked with an equal number of votes. A “recount” in Lincoln added one vote to McCallister’s total, giving his the margin of victory.
Barker had weighed the option of challenging or contesting the result but opted not to do so, he said Friday. One major consideration, according to the delegate, is the health of his mother, who will require a liver transplant soon. “The house of delegates and all my great supporters are so very important to me,” Barker said. “But my mom and her health are the biggest concern.”
“With a grateful and appreciative heart to all those who supported and worked for me … I have decided not to contest any further the results” of the primary, Barker said in a prepared statement.
“My somewhat brief tenure in the house was a tremendous experience,” he wrote. “I learned much and enjoyed every minute of my representation of the good people of the 22nd.
Despite losing, Barker pledged to continue his commitment to public service. He currently serves as town manager of Danville in Boone County. Barker added that he will “carry the warm feeling of fellowship” established during his house term with him “forever.”
Barker was appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to the house seat after the resignation of Democrat Josh Stowers of Lincoln County. In the primary campaign, Barker was viewed as the more moderate candidate while McCallister drew wide support from more liberal, union organizations and groups. Thanks to the union support, McCallister vastly outspent Barker in the race.
The top spot in the Democrat primary went to incumbent Democrat Jeff Eldridge, who won by a wide margin. He and McCallister will now face Republicans Michel Moffatt and Justin Mullins in the November general election.
Barker also addressed the issue of corruption in Lincoln County politics, saying “despite federal and state investigations, many problems remain in the Lincoln County electoral system.” Barker supporters have repeatedly asked why Lincoln had an inordinate number of provisional ballots in the past election and many have disagreed with a county commission decision not to count the ballots of those who live in Lincoln but voted in the wrong precinct. There was also an issue of what Barker representatives call the “two missing ballots” which election workers were never able to fully satisfy questions about two ballots that may or may not have ended up in the final tally.