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Republicans dominate Putnam races

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Republicans had a good night in Putnam County.

Four county-level races were contested in Tuesday's general election: an unexpired term on the circuit court, a county commission seat, sheriff and assessor. Republicans won all four.

In the circuit judge's race, Republican Joseph K. Reeder defeated Democrat J. Robert Leslie. Reeder had 12,470 votes to Leslie's 9,157 votes with 45 of 47 precincts reporting.

They were running to finish O.C. Spaulding's unexpired term. Spaulding was elected in 2008 to a term ending in 2016 but vacated the seat for health reasons.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed Leslie to fill the seat temporarily until a new judge could be elected, but that wasn't enough of an edge for the Democrat to win the seat.

"We were confident all along that we had a good campaign and that I was the right person for the job," Reeder said, "and apparently the voters agreed with us.

"Bob ran a good race, too, though, and we commend him for that." 

Reeder and Leslie are both 46 and practicing attorneys living in Hurricane.

Reeder said he hopes to start an adult drug court in Putnam County but talked more of his eagerness to bring his judgment to circuit court.

"The big thing that I tend to bring to the job is fairness and reasonableness and professionalism," he said. "I'm just excited about the prospect of serving the citizens of Putnam County."

With the election of Republican Andy Skidmore, Putnam will have an all-Republican county commission starting in January. It won't be the first time.

Skidmore joins Steve Andes and Joe Haynes. Those two served on an all-Republican commission for two years with Jim Caruthers from 2004-2006. Caruthers was defeated by Democrat Gary Tillis, who did not seek reelection this year. 

Skidmore said having three commissioners from the same party won't necessarily make a big difference.

"The role of the county commission isn't really one that is affected by whether you're a Democrat or Republican," he said.

Skidmore is vice president of Passero Financial Group. He has an MBA from Marshall University and is a graduate of Poca High School. He and his wife, Rachel, have three children, Luke, Isaac and Julia.

He said he intends to use his financial background to work closely with the county budget and promote business in the county.

Skidmore defeated Democrat Lee Casto, a 33-year employee of the county commission. Casto is currently maintenance director for the county and spent 10 years as an emergency medical technician.

With 45 precincts reporting, Skidmore had 12,670 votes, or 60 percent, to Casto's 8,324 votes. 

Outgoing Putnam Sheriff Mark Smith will be replaced by Republican Steve DeWeese, a former deputy who resigned last year before entering the race.

DeWeese, 45, is also in the West Virginia Army National Guard.

He said he had to resign from the sheriff's department to run for what he called his "dream job."

"I want to thank the citizens and voters for putting their faith in me for the next four years," he said.

Also on the ballot was a constitutional amendment that would have allowed sheriffs to serve more than two terms. It was rejected by voters statewide.

DeWeese thought voters should be allowed to decide how many terms a sheriff serves, but he also said eight years is long enough to run a sheriff's office.

"I anticipate that it will be a seamless transition with the outgoing sheriff to myself," he said.

His opponent was Democrat Bud Lett of Fraziers Bottom, a former state trooper and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

With 45 precincts reporting, DeWeese had 14,688 votes, or 66 percent, to Lett's 7,501 votes.

Incumbent Republican Assessor Sherry Hayes earned a second term Tuesday night, even when faced with a challenge from her immediate predecessor, D.W. "Peachie" Arthur.

"I think I've proved to myself to the citizens of Putnam County. I've had four years to show them the person that I am," Hayes said.

Arthur served as assessor from 1997 to 2009. He's also a bus operator.

Hayes, a former employee in the assessor's office, ousted Arthur in 2008 in a close race. Arthur then challenged Republican Joe Haynes for his county commission seat in 2010 and lost.

This second race between Hayes and Arthur proved contentious.

"I always said I would never run a negative campaign, and I didn't, but he was bringing out lies and half-truths, and quite honestly I think the people saw through those," Hayes said.

Hayes defeated Arthur a second time handily with a margin of nearly 30 points. With 45 precints reporting, she had 13,978 votes, or 64 percent, to Arthur's 7,926.

 "I'm elated that the citizens of Putnam county have put their trust in me for another four years and I'll try not to let them down," Hayes said.

Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia, a Republican, was unopposed in his bid for a fifth term. Likewise, Democrat Randy B. Crace was unchallenged for surveyor.

Only three magistrates, all Republicans, were on the ballot seeking three seats. Elected were incumbents Linda Hunt and Kylene Dunlap Brown and newcomer Scot Lawrence.

Lawrence ousted incumbent Kim Blair in the May primary.



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