CHARLES TOWN – While most races for public office will be decided during November’s general election, voters made a difference in a handful of elections while casting ballots during last week’s primary.

A Jefferson County Board of Canvassers meeting Monday to count the unprecedented number of absentee ballots that trickled in after the polls closed last week confirmed the outcome of the races.

Due to health safety all voters had the option to cast ballots through the absentee process due to coronavirus. More voters participated in the primary by absentee ballots than the combined ballots cast at the polls on Election Day and at the county courthouse during early voting beforehand.

For the nonpartisan elections for school board, primary voters selected three candidates who will serve on the five-member school board.

Incumbent Gary Kable, from Charles Town, took third place to win re-election the fourth time despite announcing he was ending his campaign due to a recent medical issue. However, Kable changed his mind after winning the option to add to his 14-year tenure on the school board. He announced three days after the primary that he would continue to serve as long as his health allows.

“I do plan to keep my seat as long as my health continues to improve,” he said.  

Kable, an incumbent who felt some of the public heat that opposed the school board’s failed attempt at public condemnation last year of Rockwool’s factory site, took third place in the school board race of 11 candidates, positioning him to serve two years left in an unexpired term.

Incumbent Mark Osbourn, a retired teacher who served 23 years as principal of C.W. Shipley Elementary School outside Harpers Ferry, won the most votes (4,166 of the 28,744 total votes cast) to win a third term on the school board.

Donna Joy of Shepherdstown, an advocate for reform in the school system and administration, earned a second-place finish with 3,820 votes. She will serve her first four-year term after winning a school board seat on her second attempt.

How long Kable might serve in the two-year term he won on the school board remains a question left in the primary’s wake. If he resigns before his term is up, the other four members of the school board will be positioned and empowered to choose his successor based on the primary election results.  

Regina Kerrigan of Charles Town, a stay-at-home mom to three children who has worked with at-risk and special education students, was the candidate in line to serve on the school board if Kable declined a school board spot.

Whether the school board should appoint Kerrigan or someone else if Kable steps down before his term ends is a question that could arise in the near future.

Kerrigan said Tuesday that she hopes school board members would remember the decision voters made this year to select her as Kable’s replacement should he resign early.

“I would hope that they would take the election results to heart and honor that,” she said.

Sheriff’s race

A former Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office veteran narrowly won a Republican primary nomination for sheriff against another veteran police officer. With his opponent Steve Harris of Shannondale saying he won’t seek a recount, Tom Hansen’s 78-vote-margin allows the retired Kearneysville resident to face a Democratic candidate and two independent candidates in the upcoming Nov. 3 general election.

The three other candidates for sheriff who will appear on the November ballot are Democrat Mike Chapman of Rippon, a local businessman and a 10-year volunteer sheriff’s reserve officer; independent candidate John King of Charles Town, a retired U.S. Capitol Police officer; and independent Steve Cox of Summit Point, a retired Ranson police officer and owner of a bail bond business.

Commission

Conservative Tricia Jackson won by 202 votes the Republican primary nomination for a Jefferson County Commission seat representing a Harpers Ferry district. Jackson bested Gary Cogle, who came up short in his second bid for a county commission seat.

A human resources consultant and a native of Jefferson County, Jackson will compete in the general election against Democratic first-term incumbent Ralph Lorenzetti, a former prosecuting attorney for the county.

Magistrate

Meanwhile, three newly elected magistrates are replacing veteran predecessors with a combined 78 years of experience in serving as Jefferson County Magistrate Court judges.

Carmela Cesare of Shepherdstown, a former assistant prosecutor and public defender, won one of the three magistrate positions up for election.

She captured nearly half of the 11,392 votes cast in a contest of three candidates.

After winning an election to the school board in 2018 after serving as an administrator to the county school system, Arthena Roper of Charles Town was appointed to fill a magistrate post in November to replace retiring magistrate Mary Rissler. Roper won nearly 52 percent of the 11,061 votes cast in a three-way race.  

Vicki D’Angelo, a Charles Town resident who worked as a Jefferson County magistrate assistant for 25 years, was elected to a third magistrate seat without facing an opponent.

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