September 28, 2016 Edition

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Lorazell Tate (from left), County Clerk Tina Stowers, Tommy Holland and Pat Whitmire prepare to tally votes for county judge during the special convention of the Lawrence County Democratic Party.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

Thomison nominated
for county judge

John Bland

The Lawrence County Democratic Party convened Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and nominated John Thomison of Smithville to be the Democratic candidate for county judge in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Following the passing of County Judge Dale Freeman on Sept. 17 it was determined by law that the party could make a nomination in vacancy up to 47 days prior to the election (which was last Thursday).

Pat Whitmire, who presided over the convention, estimated an overflow crowd of 300 people at the courthouse. Chris Burks, attorney for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, was present to explain the procedure of the convention and voting. Ted Dick, executive director of the state Democrats, was also present to lend support.

Nominations were taken from the floor with Thomison and Mary Freeman of Powhatan, the judge's wife, being the two nominees. Thomison had been a candidate for county judge in two previous elections.

Paper ballots were printed, and it was announced that those who traditionally vote in the Democratic primary would be eligible to vote. The potential voters signed registration sheets circulated through the crowd prior to the vote.

In an orderly manner, attendees from the lobby and then from the back to the front of the courtroom lined up in the center aisle to vote. The county Democratic officials tallied the votes and by just after 8 p.m., Whitmire announced the results. Thomison received 156 votes, while Freeman received 106.

Because the November ballots have already been set, Dale Freeman's name will still appear, but votes cast will be for Thomison. There is no Republican candidate, so Thomison will take office in January.

The Lawrence County Quorum Court was scheduled to meet yesterday at 5:30 at the Lawrence County Courthouse to appoint an interim judge to complete the remainder of this year.

Nominees respond
Mary Freeman shared her thoughts with The TD on the events that have transpired over the past week. "Dale loved Lawrence County and he would have loved the tribute that was paid to him during and after the service."

She noted that Williams Baptist College went "above and beyond" with efforts to direct traffic and assist as needed with the service at WBC's Manley Chapel.

"Dale would have been so honored that so many people came out to pay respects" and with the county, police and fire department tributes after the service, including a U.S. flag hanging atop the WRFD ladder truck.

Regarding the election held Thursday night, Mary said, "I prayed about it. I feel like God answered my prayer."

"I would have liked to have finished some of Dale's projects," she said. "I would have been honored to serve."

She added that as county judge, Dale was doing what he loved to do. "That was his dream."

John Thomison told The TD, "We all learned something" from the political process that took place after a tragic event. He noted that the party had a procedure in place to address the vacancy, and the county reacted.

"It was direct Democracy at its best," Thomison said of the county's Democratic special convention. "It saved the county paying for a special election," he added.

"My main focus is to be a nominee until after the General Election. Then, we will look at things," Thomison said. "Anything that Dale did we are going to support and move forward with as positively as we can."

He said he would continue the focus on economic development. "I will back those efforts to the hilt."

"I am positive about our county, our position and our people. We have a great county with great attributes."

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