The primary election Tuesday ended with two siting school board members retaining their seats and James Croft, a former county commissioner in the 1980s, defeating incumbent commissioner Michael R. Crews to return to the board in November.
“I appreciate Commissioner Michael Crews and his service to the county,” said Mr. Croft just before the final results came in at the elections office. “It began long before he was a county commissioner as a county deputy, wounded in action. He deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done for the county ...”
The Olustee evangelist lost his two previous bids for a county commission seat in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but won this week’s open primary 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent, which he considers miraculous.
“I give the Lord total credit,” said Mr. Croft, 53. “We were outspent and outmanned with volunteers. This is a God thing. God worked a miracle. This is kind of like David and Goliath ... This is major stuff and God gets the credit for it.”
Despite spirited campaigns to unseat long-time school board members Dwight Crews and Patricia Weeks, political newcomers Andy Johnston and Clayton Griffis lost their races by 17.8 and 12.7 percentage points, respectively.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m very grateful over 2000 people came out and voted for me,” said Mr. Johnston. “I’m still going to stay involved with the community and stay involved with the kids. I still want to be a mentor at the high school and help out the high school swim team. None of that was going to change either way. I just want to thank the people that came out to vote for me.”
Mr. Johnston did not close the door on another run for office, however.
“It’s early to say that now,” he said. “But honestly, the fight was worth it this time, so that’s always a possibility in the future. For me, it’s always been about the kids. If things are going in a good direction — if they were this time I wouldn’t have run — but if things are going in a good direction, and they have been doing a little bit better with Westside and doing tremendously with the middle school being a beacon of success. So if things are positive I don’t think I’ll be needed ...”
The primary election also settled who will face incumbent sheriff and Democrat Joey Dobson in the general election November 6.
Republican Cameron Coward posted the largest victory of the evening by defeating second-time sheriff candidate Gregory Bohannon 64 percent to 36 percent in the closed primary.
“I’m extremely humbled by the faith the citizens of this community, the Republicans, put in me in order to offer an alternative,” Mr. Coward, 28, said. “I’d like to thank them for coming out, supporting me, even though it may not have been the popular thing to do.”
In another closed primary race, local Republicans selected county manager and incumbent State Committeeman C.J. Thompson for another term over political newcomer Danny Norton, 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent.
The winners in the Republican precinct committee men and women races were Michael R. Crews, Bill Krall, Susan Krall, Cameron Coward and Carla Coward.
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