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It’s on! Election season is officially here in Baxter County

With candidates filed and ballots drawn at the Baxter County Courthouse Wednesday, it’s finally official – election season has come to Mountain Home and Baxter County.

This year’s election season will be tightly contested, with newcomers seeking to take a shot at some of the county’s most important positions.

Several races will most likely go to runoff elections on June 21 thanks to a packed field, as Arkansas law requires that candidates receive a majority of votes to be officially elected. Early voting kicks off on May 9, with the actual election taking place on May 24.

The state’s general elections will be held on Nov. 8.

General Elections

This year’s general elections are set to bring about several changes to the state legislature and the governor’s office this year.

Governor Asa Hutchinson will be stepping aside due to term limits, opening up a lively race for the office. Roughly half a dozen Democrats and two Republicans are competing in the primary election on May 24 for a shot at the Governor seat this year. One Libertarian and several write-in candidates have also filed.

Governor Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson will be leaving office in December after finishing out his final term as Governor of Arkansas. Photo by Governor’s Office.

Other state-level elections of note are the Senate District 23 race, which covers portions of Boone, Fulton, and Izard counties, and all of Marion and Baxter County. In that race, Republican incumbent Scott Flippo of Mountain Home will face off against Democrat candidate Derek Huber in November.

House District 3, which covers the northern section of Baxter County and a large portion of Fulton County, is also seeing a heated race as Mountain Home natives Thomas Bryant and Stetson Painter face off with each other in a Republican primary contest. The winner will go head to head against Libertarian candidate Steve Parsons in the general election.

House District 4 will see Republicans head to a primary vote as incumbent State Representative Jack Fortner defends his seat against Bruce Emerson of Pyatt. The primary winner will head to Little Rock as the district’s representative as there are no other opposing candidates. District 4 covers southern Baxter County and all of Marion County.

This year, there’s also a three-way race for District 10 Judge, with Mountain Home’s Bob Lowery and Jodi Carney entering the race with Sam Pasthing of Flippin. The winner would replace interim judge Chris Carter, who Governor Hutchinson appointed after Jason Duffy resigned last year.

If no one candidate secures the majority of votes in the District 10 race, a runoff election will be held on Nov. 8.

Home Elections

Elections at home will bring shake-ups to Baxter County and Mountain Home.

While six of the county’s Justices of the Peace are running unopposed this year, three of the county’s JPs will be facing competition this year.

The Baxter County Courthouse sits quietly in Mountain Home’s downtown square after one of the city’s latest snow-ins. Photo by Lyndsy Simon of Ascend Photography / Mountain Home Observer.

District 11 JP Ty Chapman will be facing a primary challenge from Thomas Canta this year. Both Chapman and Canta are Republicans. District 2 JP Angela Degroote, a Republican, will be facing Democrat opponent Johnny Rickman for her seat in a general election challenge this year.

District 3 will see Republican Rick Steiner square off against Democrat Donny Huffine for a shot at Bob Lowery’s old seat. Lowery resigned in December of last year to seek office as a district judge. Governor Hutchinson is expected to install a replacement for Lowery until the end of his seat’s term in December.

This year, the Quorum Court’s District 10 seat is the final seat up for grabs after JP Kevin Litty announced that he would not be running for the seat again this year. Litty is now running for county judge.

District 10 will officially go down as one of this year’s most contested elections, with four separate Republicans attempting to fill the position. Ernest Adkins, Vincent Anderson, Shannon Walker, and Shelia Wingard will hit the campaign trail in a race that will likely end in a runoff election.

Uncontested seats include JPs Dennis Frank (District 1), Dirk Waldrop (District 4), MaryAnne Edge (District 5), Tink Albright (District 6), Charles Osgood (District 7), Roger Steele (District 8), and Cameron Davis (District 9).

Other uncontested county positions include County and Circuit Clerk Canda Reese, Assessor Jayme Nicholson, Collector Teresa Smith, Treasurer Jenay Mize, Coroner Bradley Hays, Surveyor Charles Slater. All candidates are Republican.

Sending Off Judge Mickey Pendergrass

During the Quorum Courts January session, Judge Pendergrass also took the opportunity to address his intentions for this year’s elections and his desire to retire after 50 years of service in the workforce.

Pendergrass has served Baxter County in various government roles for 34 years. Pendergrass served as County Judge for three two-year terms before voters approved an amendment in 2017 to allow officials to hold office for four years.

He will continue to serve until the completion of his four-year term in December.

“Thank you for putting your trust in my abilities to serve you and to serve the whole county of which I have tried for 10 years to do,” said Judge Pendergrass during his retirement announcement. “I have served in some form of government in Baxter County for over 34 years, and I think it is time, after much consideration, prayer, and concentration with family. It is time for me to take the next step.”

Baxter County Judge Pendergrass announced he will not be seeking reelection this year. Pendergrass has served as Baxter County’s top judge for the last 10 years. Photo by Chris Fulton/MHO.

During his speech, Pendergrass said he is ready to return home to serve God and his family while enjoying his “golden years.” His time in office has taken him to the steps of the Governor’s Mansion in Arkansas and the Oval Office itself in Washington, DC.

Pendergrass experienced a serious health scare in 2016 and spoke about how his experience changed his outlook on life.

“Thanks to my wife and quick actions, Baxter Regional Hospital saved my life, giving me many quality years to go yet,” Pendergrass said. “This event made me even more aware of the facts of life. Life is short. And we only have a short time to serve our community, our God, and our family. I now wish to retire with over 50 years in the workforce.”

Pendergrass’s retirement is a big shakeup for the county, which has flourished under his guidance. With his seat now open, a total of four separate candidates have stepped forward to fill the position. Those candidates include Kevin Litty, Brian Plumlee, Shannon Feliccia, and Eric Payne.

Much like the other contested races this year, the race for county judge has a high chance of going to runoff as candidates seek to obtain a majority of votes. All candidates seeking Pendergrass’s seat are Republicans. No Democrats, Libertarians, or nonpartisan candidates filed for a chance to oversee the county as the top judge.

Other Races

Baxter County and Mountain Home will see several other races this year as well.

Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery will have to defend his role as Sheriff against Henry Campfield and John Pate this year.

Mountain Home’s School District will also be seeing a potential shakeup as Bob Chester seeks to unseat longtime incumbent Arnold Knox for the district’s Position 2 seat. Barabara Horton, another district incumbent, is also seeing a challenge from Carrie Ramsey for the district’s Position 4 seat.

David Ethredge is also unopposed for his District 14 prosecuting attorney race.

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