60% voter turnout expected Tuesday

Published 11:29 am Saturday, November 5, 2011

FRANKLIN—Election officials in Isle of Wight and Southampton counties are predicting a 60 percent voter turnout for the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election, which will include ballots with county and state candidates.

In both counties, races for sheriff seem to be the draw.

“It hasn’t been contested in many years,” said Southampton County Registrar of Voters Leona Davis. “We’ve had the same sheriff for 28 years.”

Franklin Voter Registrar Jennifer Maynard, who will be working her first election with the city on Tuesday, doesn’t know what to expect in the way of turnout from the 5,883 voters.

“It seems to me the most people are interested in is the sheriff,” Maynard said.

Franklin residents also are served by the Southampton County sheriff.

Within days after seven-term Sheriff Vernie Francis Jr. announced his retirement, his chief deputy, Democrat Jack Stutts, 55, threw in his hat for the $85,000-a-year-job. Independents David Holland, a 56-year-old former assistant commander of personnel for the Fairfax Police Department, and Brian Marvel, a 37-year-old police officer in Franklin, followed.

The candidates have spent a combined $15,000 on the campaign, with Stutts spending two-thirds of that amount.

Billy Bell, secretary for the Isle of Wight County Electoral Board, is basing the expected 60 percent turnout on the sheriff’s race there.

“I would say that got a lot of publicity,” Bell said.

Smithfield Police Chief Mark Marshall, 52, and Hampton Police Lt. James Crotts, 50, are attempting to unseat six-term Sheriff Charlie Phelps, 68. All are independents. The sheriff is paid $80,209 annually.

Phelps has faced a tough election year. In May, his son, Paul Phelps, was indicted for allegedly allowing felon Jonathan Burns to use a stun gun while volunteering for the department.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer recently questioned Paul Phelps’ credibility as a witness after a search of a Smithfield residence because of his “limited administrative duties.” Farmer said he would no longer use the younger Phelps to testify in any cases. Paul Phelps is now on paid administrative leave.

Virginia State Police on Sept. 16 searched the home of deputy Matthew Aaron Lyons, 21, in connection with a child pornography investigation. Lyons resigned Monday, but has not been charged.

Bell said he had no idea what to expect in voter turnout in the Carrsville District, where five are running for one seat on the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors. He noted that the Raynor precinct in that district traditionally has the largest turnout in the county.

The district’s 4,892 voters will choose among Rex Alphin, J. Brian Carroll, Tom Gaskell, Joe Joyner or Ben Rideout to replace Kenneth Bunch, who chose not to run due to job commitments. A former Isle of Wight School Board member, Bunch was appointed one year ago to complete the term of Supervisor Phillip Bradshaw, who resigned after being named chief financial officer for IOW schools.

Isle of Wight County Assistant Registrar Victoria Lonsdale has had 200 voter come into the office to cast absentee ballots. Another 300 to 400 mailed in absentee ballots.

In Franklin, a total of about 100 have voted by absentee ballot.