Incumbents dominate in Somerset City Council races
by Heather Tomlinson Commonwealth Journal
Somerset residents will see mostly familiar faces on Somerset City Council come January.
Registered voters in Somerset’s 12 wards hit the polls Tuesday to decide on their councilors for the next two-year term.
In Ward 1, incumbent Jim Rutherford, who is in his sixth year on the council, pulled in 67.33 percent of the vote for a total of 2,207 tallies in a race against challenger Allan Coomer. Coomer received 32.67 percent of the vote, or 1,071 votes.
“I was pleased with the results,” Rutherford said on Tuesday night. “And I’d like to extend (Coomer) my best regards. He’s a fine man and a good competitor.”
Rutherford and Coomer are both former law enforcement officers, both of whom worked for the Somerset Police Department.
“I appreciated his campaign, and appreciate his public service,” Rutherford said.
Perhaps one of the most interesting races this election season involved Jim Rutherford’s brother, Tim Rutherford, a former councilor who challenged Ward 10 Councilor Pat Bourne for his seat. Bourne emerged the winner, with 1,633 votes compared to Tim Rutherford’s 1,606 votes — meaning Bourne squeaked out the win with 28 votes. Bourne received 50.42 percent of the votes and Tim Rutherford pulled in 49.58 percent.
“I’m excited about winning,” said Bourne, when reached by phone Tuesday evening. “(Rutherford) ran a real good race.”
The two men are acquaintances and have served together on Somerset City Council. Tim Rutherford was defeated by current Ward 12 Councilor Tom Eastham in 2010.
“I want to keep the continued progress going in the city,” Bourne said. “We’ve got a real progressive mode going and I want to keep it going.”
Bourne has served more than 15 years on the council.
Ward 2 City Councilor Linda Stringer, who began her time on the council in 2007, survived a challenge by former councilor James Clarence Floyd. Stringer received 1,827 votes, or 53.62 percent of the ballots cast, and Floyd pulled in 1,580, or 46.38 percent of the votes
Jerry Wheeldon, who serves as the city’s Ward 3 councilor, pulled in 57.69 percent of the vote, or 1,974 votes against challenger Brent Fleming’s 42.31 percent, or 1,448 votes. Fleming had challenged Wheeldon unsuccessfully in the 2010 elections.
Wheeldon has served as councilor for a total of 16 years. He spent two years away from the council after losing his seat in 2006. He regained that seat in 2008.
Ward 5 Councilor Jerry Girdler handily defeated challenger Claude “JR” Philpot, pulling in 76.56 percent of the ballots for a total of 2,535 votes. Philpot pulled in 23.44 percent of the votes for a total of 776 tallies.
Girdler has served a total of 10 years on the council.
John Ricky Minton, Ward 8 councilor, emerged the winner in last night’s race with 55.60 percent of the vote for a total of 1,672 ballots cast. Challenger David Blevins brought in 44.4 percent of the vote, or 1,335 total tallies.
Minton has served on the council since 1994.
Ward 9 Councilor Jim Mitchell won his race against challenger Ricky Wilson. Mitchell received 1,564 votes versus Wilson’s 1,350 votes. Mitchell brought in 53.67 percent of the votes and Wilson 46.33 percent.
Mitchell has served on the council for eight years.
Mark Beasley, who has served since 2010 after regaining his former seat that year, was the only challenged incumbent not to emerge the winner in Tuesday’s races. Beasley’s challenger, James C. “Jimmy” Eastham, brought in 59.07 percent of the vote for a total of 1,990 tallies. Beasley pulled in 40.93 percent of the vote for a total of 1,379 ballots.
The following incumbents retain their seats after unopposed races:
• Mike New, Ward 6, 2,764 votes. New has served on the council since 2009.
• Donna Hunley, Ward 7, 2,624 votes. Hunley has served as councilor since 1993.
• Jerry Burnett, Ward 11, 2,558 votes. Burnett has served on the council for more than a decade.
• Tom Eastham, Ward 12, 2,586 votes. Eastham is about to begin his second term as councilor.