Paula Drungole-Ellis cruised past Roy A. Perkins en route to the only clear victory in a trio of elections for the 14th Chancery District judge on Tuesday.
Ellis and Perkins were competing for the subdistrict 14-3 judgeship, for which longtime Chancery Judge Dorothy Colom did not seek another term.
As results came in Tuesday night, Ellis led Perkins in every county in the 14-3 race. Across the entire district, as of the end of Tuesday night, with absentee ballots still to be counted in Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties, Ellis had 10,281 votes to Perkins’ 6,036.
“I believe hard work pays off when you’re passionate about what you’re doing,” Ellis told The Dispatch Tuesday night. “When you really love people and believe in people and have experience, people really look at that and they know you care for them and care for the community and that it’s not just yourself.”
Winning the place 3 judgeship is particularly meaningful for Ellis as she will succeed Colom — the person who appointed Ellis as judge for Oktibbeha County’s youth court, a position she’s held for nine years. Ellis also is a practicing attorney in Starkville.
“We have had three great judges,” she said. “I am so honored, and I’m going to make them proud. I’m going to make them proud because I’m going to follow the law, uphold the constitution and fairly and impartially do justice. That’s what it’s all about.”
Perkins did not respond to calls for comment by press time.
Tuesday’s other chancery judge elections were less decisive.
The five candidate subdistrict 14-1 race to replace Judge Kenneth Burns, who is not seeking another term, between Elizabeth Ausbern, Gene Barton, Todd Bennett, Rodney Faver and Lee Ann Turner appeared to be heading to a runoff at the end of the night on Tuesday.
With absentee ballots still to be counted as of Wednesday morning, the race remained too close between three front-runners to determine which two will advance to a runoff.
Ausbern, Faver and Turner led as of Wednesday morning, with 5,546, 5,258 and 5,187 votes, respectively. The numbers bring Ausbern to 27.26 percent of the vote, Faver to 26.94 percent and Turner to 26.08 percent.
Gene Barton logged 2,686 votes, while R. Todd Bennett garnered 713.
Oktibbeha, Webster and Chickasaw counties will continue to count absentee and affidavit ballots in the subdistrict 14-1 race through the day.
The three-candidate subdistrict 14-2 race is headed to a runoff between Columbus attorneys Joe Studdard and Carrie Jourdan.
Studdard led with 6,273 votes, or 37.8 percent of the vote, as of this morning. Jourdan had 6,083 votes, or 36.6 percent.
Columbus Municipal Judge Gary Goodwin finished third with 4,273 votes, or 25.5 percent. The result included full election day and absentee ballots from Lowndes County, with Clay County still to count absentee ballots today.
All three were vying to replace Judge Jim Davidson, who opted not to run again.
Both Studdard and Jourdan said they were impressed with high voter turnout and that their priorities going forward would be to get voters back out for a runoff.
“I’m feeling good. We’re excited to be in the runoff,” Studdard said. “We have worked very hard and we expected a run-off because of the situation with new candidates running.
“The turnout has been extremely heavy and we are just interested in getting to work on how to get the turn-out back in similar numbers, because typically in a run-off it doesn’t get that high,” he added. “So our job is to get our people back out to the poll and finish what we started.”
Jourdan said Goodwin had a “respectable showing” and that the winner of the runoff will most likely be whoever can capture most of his voters.
“Both of us (Studdard and Jourdan), I think, have been here so long that our supporters are pretty firmly well in place, so I think the job will be who can get the people that were voting for Gary to vote for them,” she said.
The chancery judge district includes all or part of six counties — Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Noxubee, Chickasaw and Webster — with voters casting ballots in only one of three subdistrict races according to where they live.
Chancery judges deal with family court issues, as well as probate and small civil cases.
Senate, House races
Incumbent Republican Roger Wicker won the regular U.S. Senate election while Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy advanced to the Nov. 27 runoff in the four-candidate race. Republican Michael Guest won the statewide race for Third Congressional District House of Representatives while Republican incumbent Trent Kelly won the 1st Congressional District House race.
In the statewide races in Lowndes County, Wicker led the way in the U.S. Senate race with 10,014 votes, followed by David Baria with 7,891 votes, Danny Bedwell (197) and Shawn O’Hara (69).
In the Senate special election, Mike Espy carried in Lowndes County with 8,209 votes, followed by Hyde-Smith (7,437), Chris McDaniel (2,360) and Tobey Bartee (295). In the First District House race, Kelly lead the way in Lowndes County with 10,120 votes, followed by Randy Wadkins (8,132) and T. Lou O’Hara Hill (136).
Wicker carried Oktibbeha County over Baria with 6,448 votes, or 50.04 percent of the vote, to Baria’s 6,159 votes, or 47.8 percent.
Espy led Oktibbeha County in U.S. Senate special election, with 6,421 votes, or 49.43 percent. Hyde-Smith came in second, with 4,962 votes, or 38.2 percent, and McDaniel trailed with 1,370 votes, or 10.55 percent.
In the First Congressional District election, Republican U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly carried the county with 748 votes, or 60.76 percent of the vote, to Democratic challenger Randy Mack Wadkins’ 476, or 38.67 percent.
In the Third Congressional District, Republican Michael Evans won 5,898 votes, or 50.46 percent of the vote in Oktibbeha County, while Democrat Michael Guest won 5,661 votes, or 48.43 percent.
In Clay County, Baria led with 3,716 votes, or 54.46 percent, to Wicker’s 3,003 votes, or 44.01 percent.
Espy also carried Clay County, with 3,848 votes, or 55.65 percent. Hyde-Smith got 2,294 votes, or 33.17 percent and McDaniel got 632 votes, or 9.14 percent.
In the First Congressional District race in Clay County, Wadkins led with 3,779 votes, or 54.5 percent, to Kelly’s 3,100 votes, or 44.75 percent.
In the Senate Special election in Noxubee County, Mike Espy led the way with 2,747 votes, followed by Cindy Hyde-Smith (883), Chris McDaniel (883) and Tobey Bartee (103).
In the other Senate race, David Baria led among Noxubee County voters with 2,742 votes, followed by incumbent Roger Wicker with 1,074, Danny Shawn O’Hara (23) and Danny Bedwell (21).
In the Third Congressional House race, Evans led the way with 2,546 votes, followed by Guest with 803 votes and Holland with 27.
Reporters Slim Smith and Mary Pollitz contributed to this report.