Paris attorney Vicki Hoover defeated Hardin County attorney Ben Harmon in four of the 24th Judicial District’s five counties to win Thursday’s race for chancellor of the 24th Judicial District.
It was a night that also saw incumbent Property Assessor Charles VanDyke squeak out a win over local banker Scott Morrison, and state Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, hold off a challenge from Casey Hood of Obion County.
Hoover, the Republican nominee in the chancellor’s race, collected 10,938 votes throughout the five counties in the district. She faced a strong challenge from the independent Harmon, who had 8,164 votes.
Hoover took home 3,230 votes in Henry County, compared to Harmon’s 2,016. Harmon’s only win was in his home county of Hardin County, 2,689 to 1,878.
“I’m thrilled,” Hoover said of the win as she and her supporters celebrated at her Paris law office. “I’m excited. I’m so grateful to everyone for having the faith and trust in me, and electing me their chancellor.”
Hoover pointed out it would be the first time a woman from Henry County had served as chancellor. Hoover’s win also represents the first chancellor from this county in 52 years.
“What a night for my county,” she said. “It took a team effort, and I’m so grateful to everybody.”
Hoover said she was looking forward to getting to work, starting with cleaning up the backlog of cases that exists, particularly in Henry County.
She said she’d already asked Sheriff Monte Belew for overtime hours for bailiffs so she could do just that.
“I’m not afraid to work, and I can certainly work later in the afternoon,” she said. “I’m going to take care of Henry County first, because we’re the most backed up.”
Hoover will be serving the remainder of an unexpired term vacated by Carma McGee in April 2019 when whe was appointed to an appellate judgeship with the Tennessee Court of Appeals Western Section.
VANDYKE GETS NARROW WIN
In the Henry County property assessor’s race, incumbent Charles VanDyke narrowly defeated challenger Scott Morrison 2,553 to 2,537 — a margin of just 16 votes.
“I kind of said I figured if I won, it would be by a small margin, but if he (Morrison) won, he would win big,” VanDyke said. “He really got out and worked. I didn’t spend a whole lot of money on campaigning. I was hoping people would go by my record. Several people told me my experience was why they would be voting for me.”
VanDyke said the complexities of the job can be surprising —a fact he first learned when he was appointed by the Henry County Commission to take over for the late Albert Wade in 1998.
“I had worked for the state and I knew their program, and I thought it would be easy to pick up the (details of the) job. But I found out that I had to learn a lot.
“I’ve got a good staff that has made it a whole lot easier.”
VanDyke said Thursday that he wouldn’t seek another term.
“This will be the last time I run,” he said. “I’ll be 75 in four years.”
In the 24th District State Senate Republican primary, incumbent John Stevens held off challenger Casey Hood. Stevens earned 13,059 votes, while Hood received 8,264.
In Henry County, he received 2,436 votes to Hood’s 1,179. Hood got a win in his home county of Obion, but Stevens won in his home county of Carroll, as well as Benton, Gibson and Weakley counties.
“Thank you to all Republican primary voters for their trust and support,” Stevens said Thursday night. “I ran a positive campaign that highlighted my conservative record.
“We are facing challenging days ahead. I think the voters wanted to stick with a proven leader who will work with Governor (Bill) Lee and President (Donald) Trump to reduce unemployment, protect business from frivolous lawsuits, and safely educate our students.
“I look forward to continuing to talk to voters about my plans to expand broadband access for rural west Tennessee, reduce burdensome red tape on business and agriculture producers, and keeping our taxes low.”
A CHANGE ON SCHOOL BOARD
In the race for the Henry County Board of Education’s 1st District seat, incumbent Rod Frey was defeated by challenger Junior Staggs. Staggs received 562 votes to Frey’s 459.
The 1st District encompasses the Buchanan, Puryear and Cottage Grove precincts.
“It’s pretty neat, I really didn’t see it coming,” Staggs said. “With COVID and everything we really haven’t had a chance to go out and shake hands with everyone in the community like we wanted to. Our supporters pulled through in the end and that’s great.”
When he takes office in September, Staggs said his immediate focus will be on keeping the students safe.
“Right now the safety of the students is the number one priority,” said Staggs. “There are a lot of parents that are really scared right now and they have a right to be. We’re responsible for keeping the kids well. I have my two girls going to school here, their safety and every student’s safety is my number one priority.
“I wanna say thanks to everyone. They’ve been helpful. I don’t take any vote lightly,” said Staggs. “I’m not even originally from here, I met my wife here and we’ve had our kids here. For the last fourteen years, these great people have helped make this place a home and done so much for me. I don’t take that lightly.”
Two other county school board members earned new terms in uncontested races Thursday.
Tom Beasley of the 3rd District received 1,193 courtesy votes and Jill Coker of the 5th District, 938.
Incumbent Richie Chilcutt won another term as Henry County road supervisor, receiving 4,552 courtesy votes.
Highway Commission Chairman Bobby Milam also earned another term, taking home 4,507 courtesy votes.
James Benau, who was running unopposed for the 4th District seat on the road board, received 342 courtesy votes, and will be replacing Leroy Morris, who had served since 2018, replacing Velvet Arnold, who had resigned.
Clarence Lee Roy Henry, likewise unopposed, received 877 courtesy votes for 5th District road board seat. He’ll be replacing longtime board member Vic Mallard.
In the Republican primary for state representative in the 75th District, incumbent Bruce Griffey collected 3,498 courtesy votes.
Three incumbents are returning to the Paris Special School District Board of Education — John Steele received 893 votes, Missy Klutts, 870, and Troy Barrow, 813. A fourth seat was up for election as well, and will be filled by a write-in candidate once the election results are certified.
Henry Countians voted to retain McGee in her judge’s position by a wide margin — 3,384, with only 992 voting to replace.
That echoed the numbers seen across the Western Division. Nearly 73% voted to retain McGee, while 27% voted to replace her.
For more local election coverage, see Page 10.
EDITOR’S NOTE: P-I Staff Writers Ken Walker and Justin Hodges contributed to this story.