CHARLESTON — If it ain’t over ‘til it’s over … it appeared to be “over” Monday in the Democrat primary for membership in the WV house of delegates from the 22nd District.
After Lincoln County commissioners, acting as a board of canvassers, declared that former Lincoln County school board member Gary McCallister had defeated incumbent Delegate Josh Barker, there was speculation that Barker would challenge and/or contest the results.
Apparently, he will do neither.
Election night, May 13, Barker was clinging to a three-vote lead in the race for second place in the primary. The 22nd District has two members, and incumbent Democrat Jeff Eldridge led the field by a large margin. But it was tight all evening in the four-county district for second place. When all votes were tabulated election night, parts of Boone, Lincoln, Logan and Putnam counties appeared to have given Barker his three-vote margin.
But canvasses in the four counties produced a rare situation. When all four counties completed their canvasses, Barker had picked up a vote each in Logan and Putnam but McCallister gained nine in Lincoln to put the race into a dead tie at 1,249 votes.
McCallister then asked for a hand recount in Lincoln County. Barker joined that request but Friday morning, both sides agreed with the county commission that three provisional or challenged ballots should be added to the machine count. Both sides gave up their requests for manual counting. The results from the three ballots were that two were either not located or believed to have already been included in the count. That left just one new vote to count, in the Guyan Valley precinct. That tally produced one vote for Eldridge and one for McCallister but none for Barker. The result gave McCallister a 1,250 to 1,249 win.
Attorneys for Barker had argued, along with McCallister, that ballots of voters who were legal residents and voters in Lincoln County but went to the wrong precinct to vote should be counted. The county commission unanimously rejected that attempt, however.
Earlier, Barker had told reporters that “even in Gary wins by just one vote, I’ll congratulate him and go on down the road.” But Barker representatives claimed over the weekend that the candidate might have a change of heart and demand a contest or challenge of the results.
But Barker appeared in the Lincoln county clerk’s office Monday to request the refund of the $300 he had posted in the recount request. County Clerk Diril Baker told reporters and others that Barker had said “he is done. He is not challenging anything. He’s moving on.”
Although Barker would not confirm that report Monday evening, he said he would have a formal statement “in the next day or two. I am a man of my word.”
That seemed to indicate Barker was, in fact, abandoning any thoughts of a challenge or contest.
If their wins hold, Eldridge and McCallister will meet Republicans Michel Moffatt and Justin Mullins in the November general election.