Seligman, Wheaton shifted sheriff race to Davis

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

GOP nominee: 'Did I have a geographic strategy? The simple answer is no'

Elections are sometimes won neighborhood by neighborhood, and Tuesday's primary election showed that dynamic can prove pivotal in a close, multi-person campaign.

The axiom proved most fitting in the six-way race for Barry County sheriff on the Republican ticket, a contest that drew 6,538 votes, up from the 6,120 in the 2004 primary where five contestants ran for the Republican nomination for sheriff. Gary Davis won the election with 1,565 votes, only 65 more than Travis Hilburn. Where Davis secured his edge, in non-traditional areas when it comes to Barry County voting patterns, proved to be particularly interesting.

The pivotal margins came in Wheaton and Seligman. In Wheaton, Davis scored 91 votes to Hilburn's 69, Terry Meek's 48 and Danny Boyd's 47. In Seligman, Davis secured 70 votes or 42 percent, the biggest margin in any precinct, while Meek received 45, Hilburn had 21 and Boyd had 13. Those two precincts gave Davis an 87-vote margin, one that would dwindle with the remaining precincts but hold for the win.

"Did I have a geographic strategy? The simple answer is no," Davis said. "I knew the area, because this is where I grew up, and I knew where I'd play well. My wife grew up in Seligman and I went to school in Washburn. I had a couple people there who really campaigned for me. I knew a lot of people in Wheaton. That never hurts.

"I tried to reach people who could reach people. I tried to talk to respected community members, hard working people who were not shy about talking about who they supported. If you could get a supporter who would talk to people every day, you'd have a lot of people talking about you. My goal was to run well every place."

Four of the five candidates topped 1,100 votes, while Davis and Hilburn broke the 1,500 mark. Seeing where Meek and Boyd competed strongly for votes, pulling the leaders back into a closer race, offered insight into how the election concluded.

The candidates split up the population bases in seven precincts: Monett, Cassville city, Cassville rural, Shell Knob and Purdy, leaving a fairly slim margin that pockets of support could erase.

In the 534 votes from the city of Monett, for example, no candidate received more than 188 or 35 percent. That block went to Boyd, a 51-vote edge over Meek and 91 over Davis.

The two rural Monett precincts, Kings Prairie and Pleasant Ridge to the east, and as far as Capps Creek to the west, pushed Boyd to 325, up by 71 over Meek at 254 and up by 128 over Davis at 197. Hilburn held fourth at 141.

In the city of Cassville, the margin shifted. Davis scored on top with 188 votes, gaining a one-vote margin over Hilburn with 187, and a 72-vote margin over Boyd's 116, eliminating the Monett edge. Meek scored 113 votes.

In rural Cassville, where 139 more people voted than in the city, Hilburn held the top slot with 261 votes, 17 more than Davis. After Hilburn came out of the three Monett precincts with only 141 votes, the lowest of the four leaders, he trailed Davis by 56. His combined Cassville city and rural numbers of 448 only edged Davis by 16 votes, leaving him 40 votes behind at 589 to Davis's 629.

Meek and Boyd fell significantly behind with the Cassville city and rural votes, each coming in 200 votes lower than the leaders. Meek's 238 Cassville city and rural votes put him at 492, 137 behind Davis. Boyd's 212 erased his Monett edge, leaving him 92 behind Davis.

The Shell Knob vote tightened the race between the four leaders. Meek scored 184 ballots or 33 percent of the vote, a largest single vote getter, boosting him to 676. Hilburn received only 74, leaving him at 663. Davis got even less with 68, putting his tally at 697, still leading by 21 votes. Large portions of Shell Knob went to the two other candidates. James Smith received 123 votes, but totals of 94 in Monett city and rural and 161 in Cassville, less than half the leaders, left him trailing with 378. Boyd received 93 Shell Knob votes, boosting him to fourth place with 630.

The Purdy/McDowell vote proved pivotal and changed the leader. Boyd captured the biggest block of votes, 205 or 35 percent, shooting him to the lead with 835. Davis received 101, keeping him 37 votes behind in second at 798, while Hilburn with 115 dropped to fourth with 778. Meek captured 104 votes, holding him at third with 780.

After the seven biggest precincts reported, only 57 votes separated the four leaders. Smith dropped far behind with 439. The sixth candidate, Justin Fohn, had only 45 votes from those seven precincts.

From this point, blocks of votes proved crucial.

Hilburn gained ground in Exeter, scoring 168 ballots or 41 percent, compared to 101 for Davis, leaving only a third of the vote left for the others to split. Exeter pushed Hilburn into the lead with 946, with Davis at 899, Boyd at 893 and Meek at 820.

Meek secured the biggest block of votes in Golden with 73 but it wasn't enough as he seemed to settle into fourth with 893. Davis narrowed his margin to 30 votes below Hilburn's 993.

In Washburn, Meek bounced back again with the biggest block, securing 143 votes, putting him in third with 1,036. Boyd, however, receiving only 25 votes, fell to fourth with 966. Davis's 116 votes to Hilburn's 70 reversed the lead, putting him at 1,079, up by 16 over Hilburn.

Davis said although there were places he was pleased, he could have done better.

"I could have done better if I'd worked harder, like Exeter," he said. "Quite frankly, with temperatures near 100 degrees, I'd shut down around 2 p.m. I think the articles in The Monett Times and the Cassville Democrat served the people by giving them the basics. It was one of the better pieces of reporting I've seen."

Davis said he started his election drive in April, which he now feels was way too early. He plans to rest at least through the end of the week before preparing for the general election in 90 days.

Davis will face Barry County deputy Justin Ruark, D-Cassville, in November's general election.

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