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Local candidate qualifying ends Friday

Tim Croft

The picture will be fully developed at noon Friday, but the local ballot for the upcoming primary election is coming into sharper focus.

Candidate qualifying for county offices began Monday at noon and will continue until noon Friday.

The primary is Aug. 18.

Several races are shaping up to define the primary.

School Board, District 4

There were five candidates filed and qualified as of press time, with a winner emerging in August only if one of them secures 50 percent-plus one of the vote.

If nobody secures those votes, the top-two vote getters would advance to the November general election, which in recent years has been a rarity with the school board.

School Board elections are non-partisan and the District 4 seat has been vacant since the death last March of the board’s longest-serving member, Billy Quinn, Jr.

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are Thomas Buttram, Deborah Crosby, Marvin Davis, Charles Gathers and Amy Rogers.


Provided that Democrat Jobie Barfield, who sought the office four years ago, completes all required paperwork by Friday, the dynamics of this race have changed, noted Supervisor of Elections John Hanlon.

Incumbent Sheriff Mike Harrison and challenger Rhett Butler, who has been campaigning for months, are both Republicans.

If they had remained the only candidates the race would be over with the primary.

But with Barfield in the mix the winner between Harrison and Butler would face the Democrat in November’s general election.

County Commission, District 3

With incumbent Commissioner Jimmy Rogers offering all indications that he will step aside after one term, the race appears down to two Republicans.

Patrick Farrell would face Joan Lovelace and provided no other candidate joins the race the primary will be a universal primary, open to all eligible voters in District 3, Republican and Democrat or any other party affiliation.

The only other race with more than one candidate is that for the District 3 School Board seat where incumbent Cindy Belin faces a challenge from former county commissioner Carl Fox.

To repeat, as a non-partisan race all eligible voters, regardless of party affiliation, in District 3 will be able to cast a vote.

Beyond those races, incumbents appear to be heading to re-election without a challenge.

That list includes County Commissioners Phil McCroan and David Rich as well as constitutional officers Mitch Burke (Property Appraiser), Shirley Jenkins (Tax Collector), Becky Norris (Clerk of Courts), Jim Norton (Superintendent of Schools) and Hanlon.

The county will use the same voting process as after Hurricane Michael, with all voting at one of two “supercenters.”

Those are the Supervisor of Elections office at 401 Long Ave. in Port St. Joe and the Wewahitchka Public Library.

“The model is the same as what we used after Michael,” Hanlon said.

As of the beginning of early voting, Saturday, Aug. 8, both centers will be open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET each day right through Aug. 18.

“Every single day,” Hanlon emphasized. “We want to do that to prevent any confusion.”

Additionally, a registered and eligible county voter may vote at either facility.

And to think, this is just the local races; state and federal races, including President, will provide plenty of work during the next five or so months, Hanlon said.

“This is going to be a busy one,” he said.