Close calls in Jefferson County races lead to recount rumors

Zena Stephens (center) took 51.4 percent of the vote to become county sheriff.

With just a couple percentage points separating winners from losers in key Jefferson County races, talk of a recount made the rounds as the sun came up Nov. 9.

Late in the night on Election Day, Nov. 8, the voters’ choice was still unclear in races for Jefferson County Sheriff and County Court at Law No. 2 judge as the trailer repeatedly leapfrogged the frontrunner as votes were tallied. When the smoke settled, Democratic candidate Zena Stephens took 51.4 percent of the vote for sheriff, and fellow Democrat Terrence Holmes secured 50.9 percent of the vote for judge.

In a more decisive disbursement of votes, Democrat Baylor Wortham took 55.5 percent of the vote in a bid for 136th Judicial District Judge over Republican Dana Timaeus.

But it was the close calls that had Republican Chair for Jefferson County Dr. Garrett Peel speculating that a review of the math may be needed for clarification in the sheriff and County Court at Law judicial races.

“Our goal is to make sure every vote is counted accurately,” Peel said of the party’s intent Wednesday morning, Nov. 9. “We are confident in the integrity of the recount process and hope to have expeditious resolution to both contests.”

However, by Wednesday evening, no official request had been made to Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, as would need to happen before any recount could be ordered. Judicial assistant Fred Jackson said that the office had not received any written request for a recount as of Wednesday afternoon, but that didn’t mean a recount isn’t going to be requested – and granted – at some point in the future.

“I’ve heard it third-hand that it’s being contemplated,” Jackson said. “On my quick review, though, they’ve got some time to make it official.”

According to Jackson, candidates have until the second day after the results are canvassed to contest. According to Jefferson County Clerk Chief Deputy Theresa Goodness, the election results will not be canvassed until Thursday, Nov. 17, and until then all results are preliminary.

Preliminary results are also incomplete still, Goodness said, since the county voter registrar is mulling over the validity of about 1,000 provisional ballots still left uncounted, as well as any overseas mail-in ballots still en route.

“It’s always that way,” Goodness said. “Nothing is ever final this early.”

Should a recount be undertaken, Judge Branick would appoint a special team to oversee the process, Goodness added, and the county clerk office’s only responsibility in the case would be to ensure the availability of records sent to the recount team. The first count, Goodness further clarified, was performed by and under the supervision of tabulation supervisors – the leader of which was a Republican, with a Democrat as second-in-command.

“There are checks and balances in an election system for a reason,” she said. “All the parties performed their function. No issues were mentioned election night that I’m aware of …”


In other local election selections, incumbent Republican Randy Weber was able to secure his seat despite the challenge from newcomer Michael Cole, and pulled 51.1 percent of the vote to remain U.S. Congressman for District 14. State Senator Brandon Creighton also held onto his position, besting challenger Jenn West in the District 4 race with more than 82 percent of the vote.