Faced with losing a seven-county race by just 34 votes, local Democratic State Senate hopeful Steve Roller says he will wait until the votes are made official before conceding to apparent winner Jim Lewis.
“We were about to concede Thursday night but then we found that all the votes may not be in and in a race this close, just a handful of votes can make a difference,” Roller said.
As the unofficial vote stood Saturday, Roller trailed 2,935 to 2,901 with Justin Walling of Van Buren County just a few votes behind at 2,877.
All three men carried counties in the district with each dominating their home counties.
Lewis took the most counties with three, including Sequatchie, Grundy and his home county of Marion. Roller won both Coffee and his home Warren County, while Walling won Franklin County and his home Van Buren County.
Roller admitted the split of votes in Warren County may have been the difference as there were two more Democrats and a Republican running for State Senate here. Former McMinnville Fire Chief Kevin Lawrence gained 848 votes in Warren County, that total being about three-fourths of his overall total. Jeff Bottoms, also of Warren County, brought in 194 votes.
While Roller trails by 34 votes, the totals could change given the numbers of provisional ballots which could be counted. Provisional ballots are votes made by registered voters who went to the polls without photo ID as required under the new law. If those persons return with photo ID by Monday, their votes will be counted.
In Warren County, election administrator Donna Smith said there are seven provisional ballots. It is unknown how many such ballots exist in the other counties, nor is it known who those people voted for. However, should the persons not come to their election office with photo ID, their ballots will not be counted.
“There’s always a ray of hope,” Roller said.
Roller lost the Democratic primary to present state Sen. Eric Stewart in the last election by 131 votes. Stewart is not running again and has opted to run for Congress.
Whoever emerges as winner in the Democratic Primary will face Republican nominee Janice Bowling, who won her party’s primary by a landslide.