While the March primary election date has come and gone, multiple races on the ballots in Potter and Randall counties will be continuing to runoffs, as Amarillo voters had their say in a hectic election night.

Starting in Potter County, Republican primary voters re-elected Judge Nancy Tanner to another four-year term as the county judge. Despite facing heavy criticism for what her opponents called unnecessary concessions to Democrats, Tanner won 66 percent of the vote against cybersecurity specialist Edward Heath’s 34 percent. Heath gathered strong support from grassroots Republicans in the final days of the campaign, but he was unable to stop Tanner’s bid for a third term in office.

In Randall County, voters elected Commissioner Rusty Carnes to finish the term of former Commissioner Christy Dyer in Precinct 1. Voters elected Carnes, the appointed incumbent, over angus operator and Republican precinct chairman Kelly Giles, 52 percent to 48 percent.

In the Precinct 2 primary, two candidates will be heading to a runoff to replace retiring Commissioner Mark C. Benton. Opera singer Eric Barry won 38 percent of the vote and will be joined in the runoff by retired banker Terry Wright, who won 23 percent. Trailing Barry and Wright were former Amarillo City Commissioner Daniel Martinez with 22 percent and financial planner Ed Schroeter with 17 percent.

For Precinct 4, voters sent retired Amarillo Police captain Tam Boatler and Melissa Juett Kalka, the former constituent services director for Congressman Mac Thornberry, to a runoff to replace retiring Commissioner Buddy DeFord. Boatler, who was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson and Texas Right to Life, won 48 percent of the vote, while Kalka won 30 percent. Project manager Michael D. Grady missed the runoff, winning 23 percent of the vote.

In Randall County’s lone contested justice of the peace race in Precinct 4, voters sent the appointed incumbent to a runoff against a former interim officeholder. Judge Kyle Balke won 42 percent of the vote, while former interim justice of the peace Joanne Garcia Flores won 32 percent. Michael B. Grady, a county employee and father to the commissioner candidate of a similar name, won 26 percent of the vote.

For the 47th District Court open primary, voters advanced Dee Johnson and Joe Marr Wilson to a runoff to replace Judge Dan Schaap. Johnson won 45 percent of the vote, followed by Wilson with 35 percent. The third candidate in the race, Alex Yarbrough, missed the runoff, winning 19 percent.

In one of the hottest races in the area, voters in the 181st District Court race elected Judge Titiana Frausto a full term in office after she was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to replace Judge John Board. Frausto won 68 percent of the vote against Todd Hatter’s 32 percent. The race drew quite a bit of attention in the days preceding the election after video footage surfaced of Hatter taking down one of Frausto’s large signs and placing it in a nearby dumpster. Hatter was criticized by Frausto and her supporters after the video surfaced, but he stood by his decision to remove her sign from the location seen on the video.

Finally, for the 320th District Court race, voters ousted Judge Pamela Sirmon in favor of local criminal defense attorney Steven Michael Denny. Denny, who lost the seat to Sirmon in a 2018 runoff election, ousted Sirmon this year with 53 percent of the vote.

While Republicans in Amarillo had a busy election night, Democrats in Potter County also sent two candidates to a runoff in a contested primary election. For the Precinct 4 county commission primary, voters sent Melodie Graves and Warren Coble to a runoff election to replace retiring Commissioner Alphonso Vaughn. Coble won 39 percent of the vote to Graves’ 35 percent. No Republican filed for the seat, meaning that whoever wins the primary runoff will be the next commissioner for the precinct.

Voters will decide the runoff elections on Tuesday, May 24.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.

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