Fulton County voters turned out in force Nov. 2 to select a new county judge and send their former judge to fill the District 82 House of Representatives seat vacated by Boyd Hickinbotham.
A total of 4,955 Fulton County voters cast ballots in the election, 67 percent of the 7,983 registered voters in the county.
"I'm sure it's a record," said Fulton County deputy Clerk Vickie Bishop. The record turnout helped to propel Democrat Charles Willett into the Fulton County judge's seat and Curren Everett into the District 82 House of Representatives seat.
A runoff Nov. 23 will determine who will take the District 2 Fulton County justice of the peace seat. Thadnel Willett received a plurality of votes (239), but was unable to garner 50 percent of the vote in a three-person race that included Lynn Guffey (193 votes) and Sherry Jackson (149 votes).
Willett will face Guffey in the runoff.
Many in the community were surprised by how many votes Republican Gary Phillips was able to tally in his bid to replace Everett.
"He did very well considering the history he was up against in Fulton County," said Salem Mayor Gary Clayton.
Phillips received 43 percent of the votes cast in a county that hasn't elected a Republican to a countywide office since the Reconstruction.
In Izard County, officials said turnout was high, but it did not set a record.
Izard County deputy Clerk Shelley Downing said 5,493 (60 percent) of Izard County voters cast ballots in the election. Downing said a record 67 percent of the electorate voted in 1990.
"In 1990 we voted in a new judge, sheriff, assessor and others," said Downing.
Downing said the high turn-out in Izard County had little to do with high national turnout.
"Generally, if we have several candidates running for local office, turnout for us is high. Local issues always trump national ones," Downing said.
Downing said Izard County election turnout was high this year because voters had the opportunity to elect a new sheriff and judge.
Rayburn Finley, with 69 percent of the vote, easily outpaced opponent Jackie Copeland in the county judges' race.
In the sheriff's race, Tate Lawrence received 73 percent of the vote, overwhelming Kenneth Kent to replace retiring Izard County Sheriff Joe Martz.
None of the three candidates vying for the Jefferson Township Constable was able to collect 50 percent of the vote needed for victory. Incumbent Constable Jack T. Ryan will try to fight off challenger Scott Holloway in the Nov. 23 runoff. Holloway received 385 votes to edge Ryan (365 votes) in the General Election.