Voters oust Hodge after 3 terms; Davis to face Berlin on Nov. 5
Thirteen-year-old Nathan Davis took off his cowboy hat, wiped his forehead with his arm, then looked up at a reporter and summed up the feelings of his family and most of Jones County: “I’m just glad it’s over,” he said.
His father Macon Davis defeated three-term Sheriff Alex Hodge for the Republican nomination in the marquee matchup of the runoff, where several long-time incumbents were run off by the voters.
“We were overwhelmed with the amount of support,” Davis said at his victory party at the Cosmic Cafe in Laurel. “We’re so thankful the voters were so gracious to us again. We can’t thank them enough.”’
Davis, a 24-year law enforcement veteran, won 57 percent of the vote and will face Independent Joe Berlin in the general election on Nov. 5.
Davis got 58 percent of the vote in a three-way race three weeks ago to stun Hodge and force the runoff. After that, Hodge took to Facebook almost daily to try to persuade voters, and he and some members of his department made unflattering references to the days when Davis served under former Sheriff Larry Dykes and Chief Deputy Max Davis — Macon Davis’ father.
It was tough on the family, Davis said.
“Our emotions were all over the place,” he said. “I put myself out there … so I expected some undue scrutiny. I’m sure those involved with that thought that was necessary. However, I was saddened by the depths it went to concerning my family, concerning my late father.”
Remembering one of the lessons his father taught him helped Davis to remain silent.
“My father taught me to act like I’ve been to town before … so that’s how I tried to conduct myself throughout this,” Davis said. “I said from the beginning that I wanted to run on my training and experience. If I couldn’t get it on my merits, I didn’t want it any other way.”
Hodge took to Facebook on Wednesday morning and said, “We lost, and we lost fair and square. The will of the people spoke in this race.”
He said he called and congratulated Davis, wishing him and Berlin luck in November.
“This has been the greatest professional honor of my life,” Hodge said. “Thank you for allowing this team … that God brought together and allowing us to serve.”
Hodge said there is “no chance” he will run for sheriff or any other office in the future, and he didn’t endorse either opponent. He said he will make sure the transition is done professionally and he added that he will not sue the Leader-Call.
“I won’t be unemployed,” said Hodge, who owns four businesses. “God has a plan that was already in the works.”
There will be at least three new members on the five-man Jones County Board of Supervisors come January.
Businessman Phil Dickerson unseated four-term Beat 3 Supervisor Barry Saul, also with 57 percent of the votes, four years after falling just short. Dickerson will face Independent Donald Dale Holifield in November.
“I’ve had 16 good years,” a smiling Saul said at Davis’ celebration.
Dickerson went on Facebook to thank those who voted for him and to say that he would pray for Saul and his family “as they start a new chapter in their life.” Dickerson said he was “humbled by so many supporters.”
Dykes received 56 percent of the vote to beat Richy Seals in the runoff for Beat 2 Supervisor in what started as a six-man race. Dykes will face school board member and Independent Ronnie Herrington in the runoff for the seat that has been held by longtime Supervisor Danny Roy Spradley, who did not seek re-election.
In a heated battle between Laurel City Councilmen running for Beat 5 Supervisor, Travares Comegys edged George Carmichael with 51 percent — a 62-vote margin in a race in which 1,974 ballots were cast. They were vying for the seat that had been held by longtime Supervisor Jerome Wyatt, who also didn’t seek re-election.
“I want to thank Harvey Warren for the victory,” Comegys said with a laugh, referring to the Leader-Call columnist’s endorsement of his opponent. “This was a true grassroots effort. I got out and worked hard every day, my family and friends got out and worked hard every day.”
Comegys still has to face Independent Chris Holifield in November. Comegys said his experience with the City Council could be a bridge to the city and county working together better, if he wins the seat.
“The Board of Supervisors and City Council are working well together, but with my relationship with the council, I think we can even do a lot more together. Supervisor Wyatt did a good job. I want to take Beat 5 to the next level and seek new opportunities.”
Four-term incumbent Beat 1 Supervisor Johnny Burnett got 62 percent of the votes to fend off challenger Harlon Mathews. He will face Independent Bobby Brady Jr. in November.
Incumbent Beat 4 Supervisor David Scruggs will face Independent Bobby D. Barber and Michael James in November.
In the District 88 state House of Representatives runoff, retiring Jones County Tax Assessor Ramona Blackledge stunned four-term Rep. Gary Staples with 57 percent of the vote.
Former District Attorney Grant Hedgepeth received 58 percent of the votes to beat Noel Rogers in a battle of local attorneys who were vying for the seat that had been held by District 1 Justice Court Judge Howell Beech, who did not seek re-election.
Only 38 percent (16,635) of the county’s 43,606 voters cast ballots in the runoff, but that was way up from the previous two runoffs — 9,036 in 2015 and 13,047 in 2011.
“Everything went pretty smooth,” Circuit Clerk Concetta Brooks said as she and Election Commissioner Ken Reynolds were winding down just after midnight Wednesday. “Pleasant Ridge was out of power at the start of the day, but that got resolved quickly.”
The only other problems were “people not understanding how the process works” and “petty complaints that didn’t have anything to do with the outcome of the election.”
The race that has been the talk of the county for six months was for the office of sheriff. Berlin and Davis have both vowed to run a clean race, with no mud-slinging.
“After a certain point, people aren’t interested in the negative side of politics,” Davis said. “Not any of us grow from that. I know for a fact it severed some relationships of some people that had been friends for years. Those are the unintended consequences.”
Davis said he and his family would celebrate, but he knows there’s still a lot of work to be done between now and November. He likened his race to the Biblical story of David vs. Goliath.
“I knew it would be a straight uphill battle,” he said. “As (Hodge) stated, he had won by 75 percent … and we knew that was a hill to climb. I could not have done it by myself. I would never claim the victory for myself. I owe it to so many.”