Some observations about this week’s primary election, which was dominated largely by predictable finishes, easy victories for most incumbents and low voter turnout:
— Although there were little surprises in the official results, the low voter turnout (34 percent) did disappoint and was a topic of conversation at the polls throughout the county and state. Primaries typically draw small turnouts, and this year was no different. However, considering the state of many people’s personal affairs, it was hoped much more than one-third of eligible voters would turn out to elect officials who may, or may not, have an impact on their own lives. That was not the case.
— A look at the county registered voter rolls proved interesting this week. The bottom line is its shrinking. Currently, there are 35,203 registered voters in the county, including 15,650 Democrats, 13,712 Republicans, 5,223 unaffiliated and a smattering of other affiliations. It was interesting to note the county’s electorate declined by 6 percent from 2008 in the county. Specifically, Democrats saw their core in this county decline 7 percent, while the GOP lost 5 percent of its local ranks. The number of unaffiliated voters declined 5 percent as well.
— Much of the election was all chalk, meaning it played out as expected, but some were startled by what took place on the Republican side of the House of Delegates District 38B race. Leading the four candidates in votes was Pocomoke Mayor Mike McDermott, who received 3,897 votes or 34 percent. He led in both Worcester and Wicomico counties. Marty Pusey’s second-place finish and her 3,348 votes, or 29 percent, impressed many. A. Kaye Kenney finished in a disappointing third place with a little more than 2,800 votes. Kenney’s home county of Wicomico let her down and crushed her chances. She came in second place in that county behind McDermott with 1,188 votes. It was expected she would carry Wicomico to help offset her shortcomings in Worcester, where she received just 1,647 votes.
— On the Democratic side of the District 38B Delegate race, incumbent Norm Conway led the way with a strong 53 percent of the votes cast, and Berlin Mayor Gee Williams fared well with 35 percent. This gives voters the chance to fill the two seats with either Conway and Williams on the left or McDermott and Pusey on the right or a mix of the two parties. It’s worth noting a Republican has never won a seat in this district since it was uniquely carved in a major redistricting effort.
— The County Commissioner races turned out as many figured they would. Incumbent James Purnell retained his District 2 seat in easy fashion, garnering 68 percent of the vote. Jimmy Bunting, who gained 62 percent of the vote, knocked incumbent Linda Busick out of office in the District 6 primary. Incumbent Jody Boggs advanced to the General Election in a nail biter – only 88 votes was the difference. Incumbent Virgil Shockley had little trouble with Tommy Tucker in District 4, securing 60 percent of the vote, and Republican Merrill Lockfaw advanced to the November election in District 1 with 54 percent of the vote over three others.
— After this week’s easy win, it can be said Commissioner James Purnell is unbeatable in his current district. Purnell, 73, who will more than likely retire from politics in four years, has never lost nor has he ever been in a competitive race in his 15-plus years in elected office. This year’s battle with Eddie Lee turned out to be no different. However, by our records, Lee gave Purnell the toughest fight to date and that’s saying something, considering Purnell earned 68 percent of the vote.
Low turnout in this district surely helped Purnell, as it always assists the incumbent with the better name recognition. Only 28 percent of the eligible 2,737 registered Democrats in that district turned out on Tuesday, compared to 46 percent of registered Republicans in District 5 and 45 percent of registered Republicans in District 6. In District 4, 33 percent of registered Democrats took the time to vote.
In an effort to boost his colleague’s chances at re-election, County Commission President Bud Church made some waves this week by allowing his office last Sunday to be used as a phone bank to help Purnell’s chances. Church said the grassroots effort, consisting of a handful of people affiliated with Purnell’s campaign and not his real estate office staff members, had been planned for weeks and was not a direct result of a “blue letter” penned by Ed Ellis, local businessman and former elected and appointed official.
“I’ve served eight years with Jimmy Purnell. I have also known him to be an honorable and honest man. He votes from his heart. There’s not a vindictive bone in his body. I felt compelled to try and help him,” Church said. “The phone bank was always part of the plan dating back months ago, regardless of what happened and was not a result of that letter. Nobody in my office participated in the calls. I didn’t participate. I turned my office over to him and his supporters. There was nothing negative about the phone bank. I said the phone bank would be closed down if anyone said anything negative about the opponent. It was very generic, all geared toward Jimmy, nothing negative toward the other opponent.”
— Two long-time deputies in the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office will face off in November to take over the post held for more than a decade by retiring Chuck Martin. This is how it should be. On the Republican side, Chief Deputy Reggie Mason crushed David Catrino, receiving 67 percent of the vote, while Patrol Sergeant Bobby Brittingham survived a tight race over Carroll Overholt.