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Election analysis
Support for D.A., sheriff slipped, chairman challenger never took lead

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A precinct-by-precinct look at Tuesday's voting patterns shows that District Attorney Jewel Scott never got traction, Commission Chairman Candidate Lee Scott couldn't collect enough undecided votes and Sheriff Victor Hill's support slipped slightly.

The three losers of the county-wide run-off races did best in Ellenwood.

The voters at East Clayton Elementary gave Hill almost twice the number of votes as his primary challenger. They voted for Lee and Jewel Scott, who are husband and wife, at about 54 percent, according to the unofficial election results from the Democratic primary, available Wednesday.

The three did worst with the early and absentee voters. Considered "Precinct 59," by the Board of Elections, the almost 7,000 ballots cast early and as "absentee" went to District Attorney Challenger Tracy Graham Lawson, incumbent Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell and Sheriff Candidate Kem Kimbrough by a landslide.

Lawson and Bell both had more than twice the ballots cast for their opponents, and Kimbrough got a balance-tipping lead, with about 1,000 votes more than Hill.

In the July 15 primary, Jewel Scott posted leads in almost every precinct, but never had the numbers to overwhelm her two opponents. In the few precincts where Lawson led -- like M. D. Roberts Middle School, on Walt Stephens Road in Jonesboro, and Suder Elementary on Jodeco Road, in Jonesboro -- she left the competition with almost nothing, showing she had the potential to pull down votes.

Three weeks later, on Tuesday, those voting characteristics continued. Scott's wins were weak, when analyzed precinct-by-precinct, and Lawson's wins were substantial.

Lawson swept Forest Park, taking 60 to 74 percent of the vote, and took Lovejoy and almost all of the Jonesboro precincts.

Scott barely held onto Riverdale votes. She won at Oliver Elementary with two votes, lost at Lake Ridge Elementary by three votes, and was never ahead more than 30 votes in any precinct in the area. Jewel Scott's overall numbers lagged across the county, and she ended the night with 39 percent of the vote.

She had about 9,800 total votes, 817 fewer than she received in the primary and 7,200 fewer than she received in 2004.

Hill saw a similar slip of support. In 2004, he had 16,400 votes. In the July primary this year, his supporters had dwindled to 12,900 votes. That figure dropped by about 600 in the runoff, leaving Hill with about 12,300 votes. He had 680 fewer votes than Kimbrough at the end of Tuesday's count.

Hill did see solid support in some areas, however, unofficial results show. Precincts in Riverdale went to Hill, with the exception of a narrow loss at Flint River Center, on Garden Walk Boulevard. Hill held onto leads in all of the College Park-area precincts. He handily held onto parts of Jonesboro, including both Flint River Road precincts, St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church and Pointe South Middle School, which have suffered the county's highest crime rates.

A comparison of primary and run-off statistics, though, shows Hill didn't sway any more voters in those three weeks between elections.

Voters at Lee Street Elementary gave Hill a lead in the primary's five-man race, but went to Kimbrough on Tuesday. In Forest Park, Hill had fewer voters in the runoff than he did in the primary, losing votes at every precinct except Babb Middle School, where he picked up nine voters, but lost to Kimbrough by almost 50. In Morrow, an area that tended to vote for incumbents, Kimbrough took all the even precincts, 2, 4 and 6, while Hill held onto the odds, 1, 3, 5, and 7.

The night ended with Kimbrough winning with 51 percent, though it was close enough that several media outlets called the race for Hill, and had to come back and correct the error.

Lee Scott's shot at victory depended on the people who voted for Virginia Gray in the primary. Even in precincts were where Scott did the worst, if Gray's supporters had all swung to him, he would have beaten Bell.

Gray, who was on the county commission for 12 years, had her strongest support in the Riverdale area. In the primary, she received about 6,000 votes and came in third. Other candidates in the five-person race brought in about 4,000 votes, leaving a total of 10,000 primary voters potentially undecided between Scott and Bell in the runoff.

They split the polls at the Riverdale Elementary School Library, with 199 votes each, and they traded victory for victory with Riverdale area ballots, neither man taking the lead. Scott did all right in some of the areas where his wife and the sheriff pulled in substantial numbers, but Morrow voted against him, even in places supporting Jewel Scott's re-election.

Bell pulled off a few narrow wins in Lovejoy, taking Mundys Mill Middle School and Lovejoy High School by less than 20 votes per precinct, and he lengthened his lead in Forest Park, where undecided voters seemed to swing his way.

Scott swayed about 3,700 of those undecided voters to cast ballots for him in the runoff, but couldn't quite take control of the race. Bell received the support of 4,300 more voters in the runoff than he did in the primary.

With the absentee voters and early voters solidly siding with Bell, Scott ended the night with about 40 percent of the vote.

Official election results are expected to be certified by the Secretary of State sometime next week.Neither Bell, nor Lawson face Republican opponents in November. Kimbrough will face Republican Jack Rainwater in the general election.