J.D. Hess won a seventh term on the Calhoun County Commission on Tuesday night.
“At the end of this term I’ll be the longest-serving commissioner ever in Calhoun County,” Hess said after the vote count was in. “I’m humbled that people would put that much trust in me, and I’m going to work hard.”
Hess, who’s been on the commission on and off since the early 1990s, picked up 1,418 votes in a Republican primary runoff election, beating challenger Terry Howell by a 200-vote margin. With no Democrat in the race, the GOP nominee is set to hang on to the District 4 commission seat.
The matchup between the two men almost didn’t happen. Hess got 46 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary. Howell squeaked into the runoff by a five-vote margin, knocking out third-place finisher Joe Dyar only after provisional votes were counted.
For the following six weeks, the race was largely about the virtues of experience versus the value of a fresh face in office. Hess argued that his work speaks for itself, saying that most people in the district had well-maintained roads.
Howell didn’t challenge Hess’s claim that roads were in good shape, nor did he offer up examples of roads he’d like to see getting more attention. He said he’d try to convene a task force, if elected, to find new ways to deal with crime, something he said was partly responsible for the county’s decline in population.
Howell on Tuesday night said his strategy of staying on the road and meeting constituents simply didn’t outpace Hess’s contacts as a veteran campaigner.
“Mr. Hess could beat me just on the telephone,” he said. “I tried a ground game, and it didn’t work.”
Turnout was low, but the County Commission race, being local, was a draw for some voters.
“I support J.D. Hess,” said Mark Brown, a farmer from Alexandria. “He’s got the experience. He’s the better candidate. People have been bashing him lately, but that’s how it goes.”
Staff Writers Lee Hedgepeth and Tyler Waldrep contributed reporting.