A small miscalculation is making a dramatic change to the results of the May 20 primaries in Fayette County.
Board of Education candidate John Kimbell has withdrawn from the race after finding out he had not been technically been eligible to run.
The District 4 Fayette County Board of Education race was supposed to be down to a July runoff between Diane Basham (948 votes in May) and Kimbell (882 votes) as no one took the 50 percent plus one of the electorate. Basham is a former Fayette County teacher and Kimbell works in the Real Estate Title and Escrow industry.
According to Fayette County attorney Dennis Davenport, a problem arose when Kimbell attempted to cast a ballot on May 20.
“That’s when we became aware of the problem,” said county attorney Dennis Davenport. “When we started digging, we found information that might make his qualifications for the election questionable.”
Davenport said they informed Kimbell of the problem at that point. It was his decision, said Davenport, to withdraw from the runoff.
“This kind of situation would have gone to the Board of Elections for a public hearing otherwise.”
According to board of elections director Tom Sawyer, if Kimbell hadn’t tried to cast a ballot himself in the primary, the problem would not have been seen.
Apparently, said Sawyer, at some point Kimbell had needed to have an Alabama residence for a job requirement and had registered to vote in Alabama. However, the Fayette County Board of Elections didn’t show the switch in their records until May 5. Hence the problem when he tried to vote.
“It could have been worse,” said Sawyer. “It could have gone through the runoff and he could have won and then we found the problem. I don’t even want to think about that problem.”
Kimbell said that when he went to qualify, he checked with the elections office, told them what had happened and asked if he was still qualified. He was told, he said, after a check on the registry, that he was still on the rolls.
He said he received notification from Davenport on the Thursday after the election. He opted not to go for the public hearing and decided to withdraw.
“I went by what Dennis said. And talked to Tom. He said I could do the public hearing. He didn’t know how he would decide, but it didn’t look good.
“I don't regret the race. I appreciate everything you did to help me. I am sorry that our efforts appear to have been wasted.”
Kimbell says he doesn’t know if he’ll consider running again when the seat comes open.
“I haven’t made any plans right now.”
According to the code, with no one candidate getting 50 percent plus one of the vote during the primary, and Kimbell’s withdrawal from the race, the next nearest contender slides up to participate in the July runoff. That means Basham will be facing off against the next nearest contender, Jane Owens, who garnered 360 votes.
The winner will meet Democrat candidate Ogechi Oparah in the general election.