Turnout lower than expected; Britton, Cole react to outcome


Highland County voters in Tuesday’s primary turned out in lower numbers than anticipated by election officials considering the hoopla over the presidential contests. But the lack of contested local races likely contributed to that result, an election administrator said.

Steve Witham, election administrator at the Highland County Board of Elections, said Wednesday that the 37.6 percent turnout and 10,130 votes were lower figures than he thought they would be.

Witham, who said there were no major problems with voting Tuesday, said that in the comparable presidential cycle of 2008, when President Bush was finishing his second term and both parties were fielding multiple candidates for the White House, turnout was higher at 45.6 percent and 11,746 votes cast. But the 2008 ballot also featured contested races for a number of local offices.

Tuesday, the only local contested race was the GOP contest for county commissioner. Republican incumbent county officeholders faced no opposition, and the Democrats fielded no candidates for county offices.

Terry Britton won the Republican nomination for the county commission, taking 60 percent of the vote over his opponent, Barb Cole.

“I’m glad the voters came out and voted,” Britton said following Tuesday’s primary.

Britton said he and his wife, Bonnie, have “a vested interest in this community.” He said both were raised here and have spent their lives in the county.

“It takes a lot of people to run a campaign like this. I’ve got to thank everyone involved,” Britton said. “It was a long two months, but very interesting.”

Britton congratulated Cole for her efforts, and said Tuesday’s win in the primary was a “first step.” He said, “We’ve got another step to go in November. We’ll start working toward that.”

Britton will face Democratic hopeful Tara Campbell and unaffiliated candidate Alex Butler in November.

Cole said Wednesday she was “obviously disappointed.” She said she realized when she ran that she was “up against the well-entrenched establishment group.” She said voters here tend to support “people from here who grew up here.”

But she added, “I wish Terry great success. I’m sure he’ll do a great job.”

Cole, a Tea Party faithful who ran unsuccessfully for state representative two years ago and regularly attends meetings of local government agencies, said she will likely take a break from her regular activism and explore some consulting opportunities that have been offered her.

While Gov. John Kasich won Ohio’s Republican primary Tuesday, Highland County joined the majority of southern and eastern Ohio counties in voting for Donald Trump. Statewide, Kasich took 46.8 percent of the vote to 35.6 percent for Trump and 13.3 percent for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

But in Highland County, Trump took 45.5 percent of the vote, compared to 32.5 percent for Kasich and 14.8 percent for Cruz.

In Ohio, Kasich has a high approval rating and ran with the endorsement and get-out-the-vote machinery of the Ohio Republican Party. Elsewhere, Trump ended up winning a landslide victory in Florida, and also won in Illinois and North Carolina. Trump also has a razor-thin margin in Missouri, with an unknown number of absentee ballots yet to be tabulated in the coming days.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton took Ohio statewide with 56.5 percent of the vote compared to 42.7 percent for Bernie Sanders. In Highland County, Clinton won by a similar margin, 55.2 percent to 43 percent for Sanders.

Ohio voters set up a long-predicted showdown in November for the U.S. Senate race, with Republicans sending incumbent Rob Portman to do battle with former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who won a three-way Democratic primary with 65 percent of the statewide vote and 76.7 percent of the Highland County vote. Strickland, from Lucasville, formerly represented Highland County as a congressman.

Portman won 82.2 percent of the statewide Republican vote against challenger Don Eckhart, and took 83.6 percent of the vote in Highland County.

Also winning handily in Highland County and across the 2nd District was incumbent Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup, who defeated challenger Jim Lewis with 84.9 percent of the vote district-wide, and 83.4 percent in Highland County.

Wenstrup will face Democrat William R. Smith in November. Smith won a three-way contest with 41.6 percent across the district, and 45.4 percent in Highland County.

Terry Britton, right, mingles with volunteers and others at the Highland County Board of Elections on Tuesday. Britton won the GOP nomination for Highland County Commissioner over his opponent, Barb Cole.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2016/03/web1_Britton-board-of-elections-3-16.jpgTerry Britton, right, mingles with volunteers and others at the Highland County Board of Elections on Tuesday. Britton won the GOP nomination for Highland County Commissioner over his opponent, Barb Cole. Angela Shepherd|The Times-Gazette

By Gary Abernathy

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