“I am very thankful and blessed to have this opportunity,” Clay Rooks said Friday afternoon, minutes after official qualifying ended at the supervisor of elections office. He received no opposition after qualifying to run for Jackson County Clerk of Courts and since the deadline was noon on Friday, he will become the next court clerk, succeeding Dale Rabon Guthrie. Guthrie earlier this year announced her retirement at the end of the present term, her 20th year in office. She was first elected in 1996. Rooks’ 11 years of experience as an employee of the clerk of courts and the ever-increasing complexity of the office were likely impediments to any challengers. Rooks has been Guthrie’s chief deputy for the past five years. And Guthrie’s endorsement, announced at the same time as her retirement, didn’t hurt any. “I had Ms. Dale behind me,” Rooks added, “my family, my dad (Buddy Rooks) who always treated people fairly, and the entire office here. It could have easily gone the other way but they backed me and I am thankful for that. I have learned from the best here.”
Elections Supervisor Sylvia Stephens also won Friday with no opposition. District 3 (Marianna area) school board member Stacey Goodson, who was first elected in 2012, also had no opposition in his first reelection effort. Stephens was first elected in 1988. This makes her technical election Friday to her eighth four-year term the longest of any sitting constitutional officer in the county. Tax Collector Sherry Brown and Property Appraiser Sharon Cox also are retiring this year, both after 12 years in office.
A very fortunate candidate this year is George Gainer of Panama City. When he announced his candidacy for state senate District 1 last October, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, another strong Republican, was considered by many to be the leading candidate to succeed his father, current D1 Sen. Don Gaetz, who is term-limited and must step down. But when the incumbent in the US Congressional D1 race withdrew, leaving the seat wide open, Matt decided to run in that race instead. The younger Gaetz is now a candidate for US House District 1. That left Gainer the only candidate and as of Friday, no one challenged him. Gainer has been to Jackson County countless times since he announced and he promises to be available at all times to all the people in his district which represents Jackson, Bay, Washington, Holmes, Walton and most of Okaloosa counties.
“I am humbled and honored to have been elected without drawing another candidate to run against me,” Gainer said Friday afternoon. “From the first day I announced my candidacy, I have worked to visit with as many voters as possible throughout the district. They have my pledge that my door is always open to them and I will do my absolute best to serve them with honor in Tallahassee.”
Jackson County Commissioner Chuck Lockey, a Democrat who is seeking his seventh four-year term to the District 3 (Marianna area) seat, will have one opponent rather than two—and not in the August 30 Primary. Mickey Gilmore had entered the race but he ultimately chose not to seek election this term. Lockey will face Republican candidate Dennis Carpenter in the November 8 General Election.
The deadline was Friday at noon for the District 5 state representative race. Qualifying were Jamey Westbrook (NPA), incumbent Republican Brad Drake and Republican challenger Bev Kilmer.
The deadline for qualifying for the US District 2 Congressional race passed in May along with the judicial races in the 14th Circuit. That also was the deadline for qualifying for state attorney and public defender. Mark Sims went in as public defender after drawing no opposition; he succeeds longtime Public Defender Herman Laramore. Sims said earlier this month that he will keep the 14th Judicial Circuit public defender’s office headquarters in Marianna.
So the races are still on for Jackson County sheriff (Roberts, Basford and McAlpin), property appraiser (Edenfield and Morris), tax collector (Folds, Murdock and Rogers), superintendent of schools (Benton, Ellerbee and Moore), District 1 county commissioner (McKinnie and Spires), District 3 county commissioner (Carpenter and Lockey), District 5 county commissioner (Patrick, Peacock, Smith, Stephens and Williams), District 2 school board member (McAllister, Pumphrey and Rister), District 5 State House of Representatives (Drake, Kilmer and Westbrook), and state attorney (Hess and Wilson).
In other election news, the race for US House of Representatives District 2 had one candidate drop out but had others jump in during the last few weeks. Fort White business owner and retired police officer Jeff Moran withdrew from the Congressional race on June 23 and has endorsed former US Attorney Ken Sukhia in the Republican Primary on August 30. Sukhia also has picked up the endorsement of US Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
According to the state Division of Elections office in Tallahassee this week, the remaining candidates for FL D2 are: Democrats Steven Crapps and Walter Dartland; Republicans Neal Dunn, Ken Sukhia and Mary Thomas; Libertarian Rob Lapham and write-in candidate Antoine Roberts. New District 2 is a heavily Republican District and includes all or part of 19 counties. This is why incumbent Rep. Gwen Graham dropped out of the race in May, saying she will consider a run for governor in 2018.
All three candidates for Jackson County Soil & Water Conservation District were returned to office since they drew no opposition by Friday’s noon deadline. All three are incumbents: Group 1 Mack Glass, Group 3 Thomas Stadsklev and Group 5 Bennie Davis Jr.
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