County voters back school levy; Forney pushes Ford out of commission race

Morgan County voters renewed the school excess levy by a wide margin during Tuesday’s primary election, picked one new school board member and re-elected two more, and chose a fresh GOP candidate for a November race for the Morgan County Commission. Voting turnout locally topped 28 percent between 10 days of early voting and ballots cast at the county’s 13 precincts on primary election day.

There are 13,225 registered voters in the county, and just 3,798 cast a ballot in the May 8 primary.

All precincts in Morgan County backed the continuation of the school tax for another four years, with 61 percent of voters on board with the local tax. The school tax was a battleground during its last two appearances on the ballot, but didn’t attract major opposition this election. The measure passed 2,276 to 1,449.

“Earlier this year, we had all 55 counties united in support of public education. And today we had all 13 precincts united in support of Morgan County Schools. I’m so proud of our county, proud of our students and staff, proud of our families and taxpayers. Our stakeholders understand that education benefits everyone. Thanks to the voters and all our supporters, especially those who took the lead in MC4ED,” said Morgan County Schools Superintendent Erich May following Tuesday night’s vote.

The local school tax brings in 18 percent of the Morgan County Schools budget and funds added personnel and benefits for school employees. It is expected to bring in $4,147,298 per year for the next four years from local taxpayers. The tax pays for extra school salaries and benefits, education and enrichment programs, local facilities costs, technology equipment, instruction materials and combined support of the Morgan County and Paw Paw public libraries.

Close, Smith, Lyda

Voters elected three members of the Morgan County school board from a nonpartisan ballot. Incumbent Aaron Close grabbed another four-year term on the board with 1,856 votes. Close is currently the vice president

Aaron Close.

of the school board.

Political newcomer Eric Lyda secured a seat on the board with 1,731 votes.

Eric Lyda

Laura Smith

Laura Smith took the third school board seat, pulling in 1,490 votes to serve another term on the board. Smith has served on the school board for close to 20 years.

Danny Clark swept 1,432 votes in the school board race. Pamela Mann brought in 1,180 votes and Alice Lantz earned 562 votes.

School board members will take office on July 1.

Judicial races

Voters also cast ballots for two judges for the 23rd judicial circuit, which includes Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

On Tuesday night, results were still being tabulated in all three counties of the judicial circuit, but Debra McLaughlin easily took Morgan County with 68.9 percent of the vote against David Hammer in the race for the judgeship in Division 2. The race is for the unexpired term of the late judge John Yoder. McLaughlin was appointed by the governor to serve in his stead in September 2017.

Voters in Morgan County also backed Steve Redding in a race for the bench in Division 4. Final circuit vote counts were still being tabulated on Tuesday night. Candidates in Division 4 are seeking the remainder of the term left vacant by the retirement of judge Gray Silver III. Redding took 52 percent of Morgan County votes in that race, edging out David Camilletti and Kim Crockett here.

Forney to face Schultz in Nov.

Sean Forney

In the most contested local party race, Republican voters decided in Tuesday’s primary  that Morgan County Commissioner Bob Ford won’t get a chance to seek a third six-year term in office.

Ford was easily beat in the GOP primary by political newcomer Sean Forney, who took 73 percent of the vote. Forney captured 1,811 votes to Ford’s 671 across the county.

Forney will face former commissioner Stacy (Dugan) Schultz in November. Schultz was unopposed in the Democratic primary, and brought in 822 votes on Tuesday.

Prosecuting Attorney Dan James, unopposed in his race to win the unexpired term of former prosecutor Debra McLaughlin’s, received 1,879 votes in the GOP primary. James’ name was mistakenly listed on the sample Democratic primary ballot but not on voting machine ballots for Democratic voters.

Republican Daryl Cowles, unopposed in his party’s primary pulled in 1,102 votes to secure a place on the November ballot. The Berkeley Springs businessman is seeking a seventh two-year term in the House of Delegates representing the 58th district.

Democrat and political newcomer Bibi Hahn, also of Berkeley Springs, pulled in 504 votes in her party’s primary on Tuesday. Hahn will face off against Cowles in November for the 58th House seat.

The most talked-about legislative race for the House of Delegates in the 59th district was still being settled on Tuesday night, but 422 votes in Morgan County went to Tally Reed in her race against Larry Kump, former delegate from Falling Waters, who took in 370 votes in the county. Just four precincts in Morgan County are part of the 59th district, which reaches into Berkeley County. Final race results were still being tabulated at press time.

Reed has been sued in a civil lawsuit that claims she wasn’t eligible to run for the House seat because she hasn’t lived in the district, which includes Berkeley and eastern Morgan County, for long enough. A Kanawha County judge declined to remove Reed from the ballot before Tuesday’s primary.

Hedgesville resident John Isner won the Democratic primary in his unopposed bid for the House seat in the 59th district with 287 votes. He will face the winner of the GOP primary in November.

Berkeley Springs attorney Charles Trump brought in 1,909 votes in his unopposed bid for another four-year term in the State Senate representing the 15th district. Trump, a Republican, faces no opposition in November.

Primary election day was bright and sunny, with temperatures in the 70s.

During the 10 days of early voting in West Virginia’s primary election, 8 percent of Morgan County voters took to the county courthouse to cast their ballots ahead of the May 8 precinct voting.

Morgan County election officials said 1,094 ballots were cast on voting machines and another 26 absentee ballots were received between April 25 and the close of early voting on May 5. There are 13,225 registered voters in the county.

The Morgan County Commission will canvass the primary vote on Monday, May 14 and Tuesday, May 15 in order for vote totals to be certified.   Click here for a PDF of Preliminary Primary Election Totals