After first day, already contested races in Clay

 Clay County Prosecutor Michelle Easterling files qualifying papers Wednesday as Circuit Court Clerk Bob Harrell, who is not seeking another term, looks on.
Staff Writer

After only one day of qualifying, Clay County already has some contested races and with two incumbents not seeking re-election, more are likely.

All five incumbent supervisors qualified and three picked up challengers on the first day.

In fact first-term incumbent District 5 Supervisor Joe Chandler and his opponent, Bill Tribble, qualified within minutes of each other. Later in the day, Jimmy McKee, a cousin to former Supervisor Floyd McKee who Chandler unseated in a disputed race four years ago, also got in the race.

Long-time District 1 incumbent Lynn Horton ended up qualifying at the same time as his challenger, Marion McClendon.

Incumbent District 3 Supervisor R.B. Davis qualified as soon as the Circuit Court Clerk’s office opened Wednesday but by 2 p.m., he also had a challenger when West Point firefighter Heath Donahoo turned in his papers.

The other two supervisors, Luke Lummus in District 2 and Shelton Deanes in District 4, did not pick up challengers in the first day.

All candidates who qualified Wednesday qualified as Democrats. While Wednesday saw the usual first-day rush, the deadline is not until 5 p.m. Friday, March 1. That means would-be candidates have plenty of time to consider a run.

And two open seats, circuit court clerk and tax assessor, could attract a full field.

Circuit Court Clerk Bob Harrell is not seeking another term. His long-time deputy clerk Barbara Jean Spraggins was the first person to qualify Wednesday. Later in the day, James “Jimmy” Taggart qualified after first qualifying and then withdrawing from the Justice Court judge’s race. His father, Joe Taggart, was a Justice Court judge, and Jimmy Taggart has run for judge previously.

Harrell said that after looking at his 24 years in the state retirement system, including 16 in the circuit court office and eight with the Sheriff’s Department, plus military service, he decided it was time to hand the reins over to someone else.
Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin, who followed in her mother’s footsteps in the post, also is not seeking another term.

Her long-time assistant, Porsha Johnson Lee, qualified early to run for the post.

No one else qualified by the end of the first day.

Incumbent Sheriff Eddie Scott, who is seeking his third term, picked up an opponent on the first day when Jeremiah Staten, a former sheriff’s deputy and now a Department of Corrections probation officer, qualified to run. Staten is the son-in-law of former sheriff Sammie McNeel.

Other incumbents who qualified Wednesday included Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry, Coroner Alvin Carter, Justice Court judges Chris McBrayer and Thomas Hampton, county Prosecutor Michelle Easterling, and constables Sherman Ivy and Lewis Stafford.

The Democratic and Republican primaries are Aug. 6 with runoffs three weeks later if necessary. The winners of the party nominations face off in the Nov. 5 general election and take office Jan. 1, 2020.