Jojo Burgess appeared to win the Democratic nomination for mayor for the city of Washington over incumbent Scott Putnam.
According to unofficial results from the Washington County Election Bureau, Burgess garnered 478 votes to 406 for Putnam. There were two write-in votes cast on the Democratic ballot. Around 23% of the city’s registered Democrats turned out to vote.
Burgess said Wednesday his feelings ranged from relief to happiness.
“It’s a range of emotions that’s going on right now for me and my family,” he said.
Putnam, meanwhile, said the loss in the primary still stung a bit as of Wednesday morning.
“We’re happy to have served the residents of this city for 7 1/2 years and look forward to finishing out this term with good things.” he said. “Obviously, the sentiment of the people that did vote is that it was time for a change. We’ll continue to work the rest of this year for the city and its residents and employees. Best of luck to Mr. Burgess in the next year.”
On the Republican side, there were 126 write-in votes cast. Putnam staged a Republican write-in campaign, and if he secures at least 100 of those write-in votes, he could potentially appear on the November ballot as the nominee. Those votes will not be tallied until next week.
If Burgess wins the general election, he would be the first black mayor for the city of Washington, something that was not lost on him.
“That’s not something to take lightly,” Burgess said. “I don’t want to be the last and only. I want to be someone that sets a trend and makes sure I have someone that follows me and keeps this up. A lot of things in this city are still segregated and people don’t pay attention to it. We need to come together and follow my campaign slogan: that unity in the community is necessary.”
Putnam, 52, said he takes pride in what he has accomplished as mayor, citing his work in the home renovation program which he said has seen homes on the renovation list decreased from more than 40 to fewer than five.
“We’ve also created a program through our (Citywide Development Corporation) that put homes that weren’t eligible for the county rehabilitation on those homes on a rehab list as well and spent well over $700,000 in residential rehabilitation in our neighborhoods,” he said.
Burgess, 53, is a longtime steel worker and veteran political and union activist. He is a graduate of Trinity High School and served in the military from 1988-95. He was invited to sit with First Lady Jill Biden at the 2022 State of the Union Address.
“There’re some things that need to be done, that need to be attacked to bring this city back to where it used to be,” Burgess said. “Neighborhoods (need to) have pride in themselves. That’s been gone for a long time. We have to get back to that for the entire city.”
Democratic voters turned out at a higher rate for Tuesday’s primary election in Washington County compared to Republicans despite having fewer competitive countywide races.
While more Republicans voted in the primary than Democrats – 18,746 votes compared to 17,494 – their turnout percentage was noticeably lower due to the GOP’s growing party registration advantage in the county.
More than 31% of registered Democrats participated in the primary, while only about 28% of Republicans came out to vote Tuesday, according to Washington County Elections Director Melanie Ostrander.
That came as somewhat of a surprise considering nearly every countywide race for Republicans had multiple candidates as Washington County has shifted more red in recent years. Washington County Republican Party Chairman Sean Logue brushed off any concerns about the lower voter turnout and instead focused on the competitive races up and down the ballot.
“I thought it was a hotly contested race and shows the power of the Republican Party in Washington County,” Logue said. “I’m proud of everyone who ran. They all ran pristine campaigns … and I look forward to us coming together for the general election in November.”
But Washington County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Christina Proctor said she thinks the momentum is on her party’s side as they try to take back the board of commissioners and several county row offices that fell into Republican hands over the past four years.
“I think they definitely had more contested races than we did,” Proctor said. “That helps with party unity. We don’t have the same infighting and friction as the Republicans.”
While there has been much hype around political newcomers shaking up the election, it was mostly establishment candidates who won in both primaries.
Nick Sherman and Electra Janis will be the nominees for Republicans in the race for the three-member county board of commissioners, and will face Larry Maggi and Cindy Fisher in the November general election. However, former Republican Mark Kennison indicated Tuesday that he will be running for commissioner as an independent, which could affect the outcome if he splinters off votes from either Sherman or Janis.
“Mark is a great patriot and we thank him for everything he’s done for the Republican Party,” Logue said.
While Proctor was unsure how Kennison’s candidacy could impact the race, she said the Democrats are also focusing on trying to win the row office positions in the courthouse. Although those countywide races on the Democratic ticket were not competitive with only one candidate running for each position, school board races across the county had numerous people on the ticket, which may have pushed the higher Democratic turnout rate.
“Obviously, the base of the election deniers was not as big as the moderate base,” Proctor said of the Republicans.
“We’re still energized as a political party,” she added. “We’re as fired up and as scared for our country and elections as we were a couple of years ago, and we know we can’t let our guard down.”
The only county incumbent to lose Tuesday night was Clerk of Courts Brenda Davis, who was defeated in the Republican primary by challenger Ray Phillips, who received 56% of the vote compared 44% for Davis. Phillips will now face Democrat Bobby Dellorso, who ran unopposed in the primary.
A motorist who was driving more than 100 mph in Greene County nearly three years ago when he crashed into another car, killing the other driver, was sentenced Wednesday to serve time in state prison.
Robert Hadley Wyckoff, who pleaded guilty earlier this year in Greene County Court to a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal crash on Sept. 19, 2020, was sentenced by President Judge Lou Dayich to serve 2 ½ to 5 years in prison.
Wyckoff, 39, of Grafton, W.Va., was speeding on Route 21 in Gray Township when he crossed the center line and hit a vehicle driven by Brian K. Crile. Crile, 53, of Jefferson, died at the scene, while Wyckoff was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., for treatment.
Crile’s aunt, Carol McBride, gave a victim impact statement, describing her nephew as a “kind, decent and honest person” whose death has left a hole in her heart.
“I feel so lost most of the time. I just need to take a moment and think of Brian,” she said. “Mr. Wyckoff needs to be held accountable for his actions.”
She then turned to face Wyckoff and said she didn’t think he was truly remorseful, so she couldn’t forgive him for his actions.
“You’ll never know what you took from us,” she said.
During a brief statement, Wyckoff addressed Crile’s family gathered in the courtroom and apologized, adding that Crile was a friend a coworker.
“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about what happened,” he said. “I know it’s just an apology, but I hope (the family) can accept it.”
Dayich sentenced Wyckoff in the standard range, and gave him credit for one day served in jail. Wyckoff, who pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge and several summary offenses on Feb. 28, has been free on bond while his case worked its way through the courts.
Police originally charged Wyckoff with driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle while DUI and homicide by vehicle in March 2021. However, Dayich dismissed the DUI and homicide by vehicle while DUI charges during a pre-trial hearing in July 2022.