Longtime Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores won the Republican primary on Tuesday, putting him a step closer to re-election to a seventh term.
With all of Kanawha County’s 165 precincts reporting, Shores led Republican challenger George Metz by 5,591 votes to 3,740 votes, according to official returns.
Shores will face Democrat Clint Casto in November’s general election. Casto was unopposed in the primary.
Metz, who works mainly as a real estate attorney, said during his campaign that he wanted to re-evaluate the way county offices conduct business and look for better or more efficient ways to do things. Shores, who has served six terms on the county commission, ran on his record and talked about efforts to keep federal officials from closing down the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston.
Kanawha County’s public safety levy — in place for 41 years — was renewed by voters Tuesday, passing with a comfortable 73 percent of the vote.
The levy, which provides funding for county and municipal ambulance service, KRT bus service and equipment and other costs for the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department and local police departments, has failed only twice in its history. In both cases, the levy received more than 50 percent of the vote, but fell short of the 60 percent needed for passage.
On Tuesday, the levy passed with 15,069 votes for and 5,559 votes against, according to unofficial results.
“It would be absolutely devastating if it didn’t pass,” Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Mike Rutherford said before Tuesday’s votes were counted. The levy provides $1.4 million a year for equipment for the sheriff’s department, local police departments and local fire departments.
Rutherford, brother of Sheriff Johnny Rutherford, said money from the public safety levy has gone to pay for equipment the sheriff’s department and other police agencies might not otherwise be able to afford. The sheriff’s department has used levy funding to buy cars, cameras, ballistic vests and to maintain computers in police cars all over the county.
Joe Lynch, executive director of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, said the county would probably have to cut ambulance service if the levy failed. The levy provides $8.2 million a year for ambulances in the county and makes up about 30 percent of the budget for the county ambulance authority and about 56 percent of the funding for the Charleston Fire Department’s ambulance service.
“The rural parts of the county would suffer,” Lynch said, adding that levy funding pays for ambulances to staff some of the most remote areas of Kanawha County.
The levy is not a tax increase, but maintains the same levy rate that has been in place since 1973. Supporters say the levy costs the average homeowner about 18 cents a day.
“Eighteen cents a day to pick up the phone and know you’ll get an ambulance or police departments with proper equipment is a pretty good deal,” said Rutherford.
Both times the levy failed before, county officials put the issue back on the ballot and the levy was renewed. In all, the levy provides about $17.8 million.
The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority would probably be the agency hit hardest by a failure of the levy, which makes up 64 percent of the annual KRT budget. KRT General Manager Dennie Dawson said the levy provides not only direct funding for bus service, but provides the local matches necessary to secure federal funding.
“Without the levy KRT could not exist,” Dawson said. “We just don’t even want to talk about that.”
The town of Belle saw a three-way race for mayor Tuesday. That contest saw Mayor Buck Chestnut, who had been appointed in 2011 to fill the seat of former mayor Larry Conley, successfully defend his seat against candidates David Fletcher and Robert “John” Sizemore. Official election returns put Chestnut ahead of Fletcher by 214 to 186. Sizemore came in third with 31 votes.
In other town races, five people were elected to town council: incumbents Angie Kincaid and Robert Surbaugh, Alice Ray, Kay Asbury and Jon Syner. Town Recorder Kim Holmes was unopposed in the election. Belle town officials decided to include their municipal election on the county primary ballot to save money.
Staff writer Travis Crum contributed to this report. Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.