Cooke reelected as commonwealth’s attorney

Published 7:46 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The voters spoke definitively Tuesday, Nov. 7, and selected Eric A. Cooke to serve his sixth consecutive term as commonwealth’s attorney for Southampton County and the city of Franklin.

Cooke was elected by a particularly decisive margin in the county, winning 11 precincts and earning 65.32% of the vote according to unofficial results from the Virginia Department of Elections. Cooke received 4,440 votes in the county compared to 2,341 for his challenger, James S. Ellenson.

The race was tighter in Franklin, with Ellenson winning four precincts, including the one representing provisional ballots, but Cooke still earned a definitive win in the locality, earning 54.77% of the city vote overall. He received 1,383 votes to Ellenson’s 1,137.

“I am humbled and very grateful to be entrusted with this position for another four years,” Cooke said on election night. “I am very thankful for all the family, friends, coworkers and community partners for their tremendous efforts. I will continue to work hard to do the people’s work as we do the right things, the right way, for the right reasons.”

Ellenson mounted an aggressive campaign to challenge Cooke, who was facing his first opposition for the seat since 2003.

Speaking late on election night after the results were in, Ellenson said, “I’m disappointed, and I’m also disappointed at the relatively low turnout.”

The Virginia Department of Elections reported, based on unofficial results, that voter turnout in Southampton County was at 53.75% and that it was at 44.08% in Franklin.

“And I suppose that the school board issue, I guess it wasn’t as important as I thought it was going to be,” Ellenson said, referring to concerns some citizens had expressed about lack of transparency regarding the finances of Southampton County Public Schools.

Ellenson had stated in an advertisement that once elected, he would empanel a special grand jury with subpoena powers to investigate SCPS finances, and he said he would request one of the former FBI forensic accountants he has worked with to conduct a thorough and exhaustive audit. He stated that if there were indictments to be filed as a result, they would be.

Ellenson also reacted to Southampton County/Franklin Sheriff Josh A. Wyche Sr.’s substantial victory over challenger Tommy Potter in the sheriff’s race. 

“I was also a bit surprised that Tommy didn’t do better either,” Ellenson said, “but I suppose it just speaks to the fact that both incumbents won, and I guess that the citizens are happy with Josh and Eric. So, congratulations to both of them.”