Story by Chris Graham
Voters in the circuit-court clerk races in Staunton and Waynesboro wanted more of the same.
That was the message on Tuesday – as Staunton voters re-elected Democratic incumbent Tom Roberts by a wide margin, and Waynesboro voters gave the nod to deputy circuit-court clerk Nikki Armentrout in her bid to replace retiring clerk Jeanette Akers.
Armentrout, who had Akers’ endorsement in a crowded six-candidate race, won election with 43.1 percent of the vote.
She polled 1,421 votes to best the candidate with the second most votes, Republican Bruce Allen, by a better than 2-1 margin.
Allen received 661 votes – or 20.1 percent of the ballots cast.
“This is very surprising,” Armentrout told The Augusta Free Press Tuesday night. “I had thought it was going to be a lot closer. I thought it was going to come down to just a few votes.”
The pundits had thought the same about Roberts’ race with Republican Ray Ergenbright, the sitting city commissioner of the revenue. But Roberts won re-election easily, polling 2,697 votes (69.5 percent) to Ergenbright’s 1,183 votes.
“I think people wanted to make sure that we had an experienced person in that office,” Armentrout told the AFP moments after learning of her election win.
“That’s the only thing that set me apart from everybody else,” Armentrout said. “I guess the voters decided that experience was important to them. I said all along that the city had never had to go through a period of having somebody in the clerk job that didn’t have experience working in the office going in.”
Allen, who had defeated Armentrout this past spring for the GOP nomination – she later refiled as an independent candidate – said he had no regrets about how he ran his campaign.
“The people that I had talked to came out to support me. I want to thank them for their support through this. It was a great learning experience. I can’t complain about what happened. I gave it my best shot,” he told the AFP.
Pete Marks came in third in the Waynesboro balloting with 389 votes (11.2 percent).
Geoff MacIlwaine was fourth with 365 votes (11.1 percent).
Marie Frye – who earned the endorsement nods of both The News-Leader and The News Virginian before the election – came in fifth with 314 votes (9.5 percent).
Wanda Wilson was sixth with 139 votes (4.2 percent).