Thirteen Kentucky judge-executives — including one identified as a conspirator in past vote fraud — lost re-election Tuesday, but an incumbent who successfully fended off allegations of drug trafficking beat back a challenge for his job.
In Clay County, three longtime officeholders identified as unindicted co-conspirators in a federal vote-fraud investigation lost in the Republican primary.
In a tight race for judge-executive, the incumbent, Carl "Crawdad" Sizemore, and former Magistrate Johnny "Poss" Gregory, fell short.
And former Sheriff Edd Jordan, who served four terms before losing in 2006, lost in his bid to regain the office.
Witnesses at a recent federal trial said all three had been involved in vote-buying.
The testimony, and a federal investigation of corruption in the county, played a role in Tuesday's primary, several people said.
Local residents are tired of the corruption that plagued voting in the past, said incumbent Sheriff Kevin Johnson, who defeated Jordan almost 2 to 1.
"They want people in office trying to do the right thing," Johnson said.
Witnesses at the trial said vote-buying had been widespread in the county for generations, with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars used to bribe voters some years.
There were a few reports of vote-buying in Tuesday's election, but if it happened, it paled in comparison to prior elections, some candidates said.
"This was the cleanest election we've had in 200 years," has been the comment locally, said Joe Lewis Asher, a retired teacher who won the GOP primary for judge-executive.
Some voters may have stayed home for lack of payment.
A total of 6,606 people voted in the county Tuesday, compared to 8,170 in the 2006 primary, according to numbers from the county clerk's office.
Across Kentucky, 13 incumbent judge-executives lost bids for re-election in Tuesday's primary, according to the Kentucky County Judge/Executive Association.
They included Steve Cornish in Anderson County; Steve Applegate, Lewis County; Bill Demrow in Lincoln County, a former coroner running for a full term after being appointed; Menifee County Judge-Executive Hershell Sexton; Floyd Arnold in Montgomery County; Larry Tincher, Nicholas County; Mickey Garner, Russell County; and Wolfe County Judge-Executive Raymond Hurst.
Monroe County Judge-Executive Wilber Graves, cited in a recent audit for improperly handling bidding on a county project, also lost.
That turnover of 13 is not unusual, said Vince Lang, executive director of the association.
One thing that was a somewhat surprising this year is that 23 judge-executives drew no opposition, Lang said, and 10 did not run.
In Harlan County, an incumbent judge-executive who was the target last month of a sheriff's drug-trafficking investigation, but whom a grand jury declined to indict, won his race.
Joe Grieshop, a Democrat who has been in office since 1999, won 3,337 votes. Challenger Denny Pace, the second cousin of a judge who ordered a special grand jury to examine Grieshop, received 1,331 votes. A third candidate, Shawn B. Miller, won 935.
Grieshop will face Republican Bill Wallace, who beat Helen Chasteen on Tuesday.
Turnout was relatively high in Harlan County -- 56 percent of registered voters -- according to the state Secretary of State's tabulations.
"The people put out a good vote for me, which meant that they were pleased with the finding that I was not at fault," Grieshop said.
In a heated Floyd County race, a former state representative lost his challenge of incumbent R.D. "Doc" Marshall, 7,294 votes to 4,832.
Voter turnout in Floyd County was nearly 61 percent, the county clerk's office reported Wednesday, possibly a result of a heated race between two well-known candidates: Marshall and former state Rep. Charles "Chuck" Meade.
Marshall, a former dentist, has been judge-executive since 2007.
Marshall said Wednesday that he thought some negative advertisements might have galvanized voters.
In Knott County, a former judge-executive convicted in a vote-buying scheme lost the Democratic nomination to the seat.
Donnie Newsome, who kept his position while in federal prison before resigning when he lost his appeal in 2005, lost Tuesday to Ronnie Watts, who runs a furniture store outside Hindman.
Watts won 2,792 votes, to Newsome's 2,265, and a third candidate, Herbert Dean Hall, won 1,424.
Watts, a former magistrate, will take on incumbent Randy Thompson, who replaced Newsome only to be convicted in another vote-buying scheme. Thompson was sentenced last year but is appealing his conviction. A judge imposed a sentence of 40 months, a lighter sentence than the maximum 90, and allowed Thompson to remain free during his appeal, which is pending before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Pike County, Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford beat a challenge by his predecessor, Bill Deskins. Rutherford became the first incumbent judge-executive to win re-election in Pike since Paul Patton left in 1991. Rutherford, who will be seeking his sixth term, is unopposed in the November general election.
Incumbents across Pike County stayed in office, including Magistrate Chris Harris, who was the target of a television ad funded by Utility Management Group the operator of the county water service. The ad criticized Harris' involvement with the Kentucky Association of Counties, which has been accused of misusing and overspending taxpayer money. Harris is a member of the association's executive board.
In Jackson County, Judge-Executive William O. Smith turned back a challenge from former Judge-Executive Tommy Slone — the fourth time the two Republicans have battled for the office.
Smith served three terms as judge-executive before Slone, a retired state police officer, ousted him in 1998. Slone won their rematch in 2002, but in 2006, Smith ran as an independent and beat Slone by fewer than 50 votes.
Smith won Tuesday by a much wider margin, according to county Clerk Donald "Duck" Moore's office.
Moore himself won handily over former Clerk Jerry Dean, who was acquitted in 2004 of murdering a former employee who had sued him for sexual harassment.
In the GOP primary for sheriff, however, longtime incumbent Tim Fee narrowly lost to Denny Peyman, according to figures from Moore's office.
In Somerset, there will be a rematch this fall of the 2006 mayor's election. Four years ago, Eddie Girdler, longtime head of the public-housing authority, defeated then-Mayor J.P. Wiles by fewer than 50 votes.
On Tuesday, Girdler and Wiles were the top two vote-getters in the non-partisan race and will face each other again in November.
There also will be a rematch for the office of judge-executive in Clinton County this fall. The incumbent, Republican Lyle Huff, won his primary Tuesday, while former Judge-Executive Charlene King won the Democratic nomination.
Huff defeated King for the office in 2006.
In Whitley County, Colan Harrell, who retired as the second-longest serving officer in the history of the state police, won by a wide margin over Sheriff Lawrence Hodge in the GOP primary.
Hodge has been dogged by questions over his handling of confiscated guns, deficits in his office accounts and questionable tax collections.
In Wayne County, Republican state Rep. Ken Upchurch won the GOP primary for judge-executive. He will face incumbent Judge-Executive Greg Rankin, a Democrat who was unopposed, in the fall.