Sowell wins big, JP cuts it close
Last updated 3/2/2022 at 12:10am
Experience walked in Orange County Precinct 3 and money talked in Orange County Precinct 2.
Joy Dubose-Simonton won her third term as Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Tuesday night, squeaking past paralegal Candice Conroy Steele, a two-time challenger.
In the other contested Orange County race, Chris Sowell was not just the top vote-getter in a five-man race for the County Commissioner job representing Precinct 2. He avoided a run-off with an overwhelming 59.7 percent of the 2,846 votes cast.
Dubose-Simonton beat Steele by 150 votes out of a total of 2,676 votes cast, 1,413 to 1,263, or 52.8 percent to 47.2.
Sowell spent more money than all his opponents combined and his saturation advertising, detailed planning and steady campaigning saw him gain more votes than all his opponents combined.
Tuesday night's totals in the Republican Primary were 1,698 votes for Sowell, and 1,148 for the rest.
Sowell avoided a runoff with 59.7 percent of the vote and a 46-point win over runnerup Matt Chandler, a former Pinehurst Mayor Pro-Tem who garnered 13.5 percent of ballots cast.
Orange County roadworker Robert "Robby" Lunsford finished third with 10.8 percent of the vote, while rancher Shawn Hare finished with 9.8 percent and plant operator Jude Graffagnino got 6.3 percent.
The 45-year-old president of the Mauriceville Heritage Association, Sowell raised $18,000 in contributions and spent at least $20,000 on his campaign, according to the latest candidate finance report dated a week ago.
Hare raised $6,000 and spent $9,000 while Lunsford reported contributions of $5,000 and expenses of $4,000.
Chandler's Jan. 31 filing, his last timely filing, showed $600 in fund-raising, $5,000 in spending. Graffagnino's Feb. 21 report, his only filing of the campaign, showed zero contributions and $1,300 of expenses.
The total number of Orange County's 54,000 registered voters taking part in this election was just over 11,000, or 20 percent.
Nearly 12 percent – 6,276 – took advantage of the 11 days for early voting. Of those, 468 voted absentee or by mail.
Republican Primary early voters outnumbered Democratic Primary early voters more than a 5 to 1 margin, but more Democratic voters than Republican voters – 275 to 193 -- cast their mail-in ballots by mail or dropped them off at the Elections Administration Office.
Dubose-Simonton, daughter of former Bridge City mayor and County Commissioner John Dubose, earned a 53-47 percent edge in the early voting over Steele with 737 votes to 649.
Sowell won one vote less than 60 percent of the 1,592 votes cast early in the Precinct 2 race, according to results released by the Elections Administration after the Election Day polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
His total from the Feb. 14-25 voting was 955, with Chandler (225 votes) at 14.2 percent, Lunsford (183) at 11.5 percent, Hare (148) at 9.3 percent and Graffagnino (81) at 5.1 percent.