By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — As the sun set slowly in the west Friday, two new candidates emerged for Mingo County commissioner. This came after a week of maneuvering that would have made any military general proud.
To begin with, the Democrat nominee for the unexpired term left vacant when former commissioner David Baisden was convicted in federal court withdrew his candidacy. That meant Democrat County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield was off the commission ballot that had been left vacant for the November election by Republicans. Hatfield defeated two commission candidates in the May primary to win the nomination.
The state election commission, meeting Tuesday in Charleston, acknowledged that Hatfield had withdrawn. They refused to allow him to cite extenuating personal circumstances, however. That meant, according to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, that Democrats could not select a replacement candidate for Hatfield.
Claiming health issues, Hatfield said he would remain as clerk but could not physically stand the three-hour round-trip from Gilbert to Williamson to serve as a commissioner.
With no organized party candidates on the ballot, other citizens had until 4:30 p.m., Friday to solicit at least 68 petitions signed by valid voters. Once secured, those candidates could appear on the ballot as either “unaffiliated” or could choose a party name up to five words once they paid a filing fee.
The only two residents who obtained those signatures and paid the fee by the deadline were Diann Hannah and Bill Duty, according to officials in the county clerk’s office. Earlier in the day, Duty resigned his school board seat since a board member is prohibited from seeking a partisan-contested position. Both Hannah and Duty reside in Magnolia District.
Apparently, those will be the only two names appearing on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
The secretary of state’s office has said that those who may want to seek the position as write-in candidates have until Sept. 16 to do so. No filing fee is required, according to the secretary’s office. Other longtime political consultants and attorneys, however, have questioned that opinion. Those people believe qualified write-ins must pay the filing fee.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Hatfield said Friday. “As of now, the clerk’s office has been advised write-ins do not have to pay the fee.”
The names of write-ins do not appear on the ballot but must be registered with the clerk in order to be counted by elections officials.