Aaron Rawls and LC Jones handily won their bids for Martinsville City Council against incumbents Danny Turner and Jennifer Bowles.
Rawls received 1,901 votes; Jones had 1,896. Bowles received 1,806, and Turner had 1,213.
Rawls said the win came with a mix of emotions.
“I am simultaneously thrilled and overwhelmed because we have been working on this campaign for months. It is pretty grueling. And we haven’t actually done any of the work of setting Martinsville back on the right track yet, so it’s like you end one marathon to start another one,” he said.
Although his term doesn’t begin until January, Rawls is already at work.
“I’ve already started reaching out to individuals who I think are poised to help us build our comeback plan. Of course, I already started talking with LC, seeing where we have some common ground, and what we think some low hanging fruit is for success in Martinsville,” Rawls said. “I’ve also reached out outside the area with people who have built economic success stories in their cities, such as Danville and setting up meetings with them, so we can get a playbook together that I can at least present it as a starting point to the council.”
Although both Rawls and Jones have been outspoken against reversion, Rawls said he did not believe the victory was an unofficial referendum on reversion. Instead, he said campaigning led to his win.
“I won’t say that issues didn’t matter at all. They did. They contributed their part, and there were many parts of contribution, but knocking on doors, working the polls with really good poll workers, that is the thing that really pushed us over the top,” Rawls said.
“I’m sure that we got a lot of no reversion votes, but Jennifer Bowles, who supported reversion although she was not very honest about that and maybe some people were confused about it, she got nearly as many votes as the second place person. So, I don’t think it’s fair to say it was an unofficial referendum on reversion,” he said.
Jones, on the other hand, believes the outcome is a good indicator of a referendum on reversion.
“I think that was one of the biggest topics overall. I think that’s what drew the crowd. That people, they didn’t want the reversion to happen, and I think that’s why we had so many people to come out. I think that’s a good indicator of how a referendum would go with the turn out that we had,” Jones said.
While he is happy with the outcome of the election, Jones said he is most pleased with the voter turnout in the city.
“I figured it would be a pretty close election. I’m very happy that the numbers that came out. I think (Martinsville) had record numbers for a midterm election. It really shows that our citizens are paying attention, they wanted their voices to be heard, one way or the other. They really came out and participated, so overall I’m happy with that,” he said.
Jones is looking at ways to make his transition to council smooth and seamless, and begin on a good foot.
“I don’t actually start until January, but in the meantime, I just want to continue to build relationships, have a great relationship with our city schools. I’ve been working on one with the Henry County School system, that’s going well. I want to continue working with the Board of Supervisors there, and just want to really build relationships. Not just with them, but with our other council members as well,” he said.
Jones thanked Bowles and Turner for their efforts while on council, and their courage.
“I would thank them for their services and everything they’ve done. It takes a whole lot for an individual to step into this arena, to want to put themselves in front of a camera and talk to people and be available for questioning all the time,” Jones said. “I would thank them for some of the things they were able to get done, their time there, regardless of my opinion of their choices of things. It takes a lot for someone to do that, and I commend them on that.”
Bowles said she was “disappointed I did not win, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve.” She congratulated Jones and Rawls.
In hindsight, Bowles said she believes the city did not do a proper job of explaining reversion, which impacted the outcome of the election.
“I think we did a very poor job in explaining what reversion meant. I also feel that I personally moved forward with this because I thought it was a way we could have a real conversation with the county about consolidation of services, and I think majority of people felt as if it was trying to close down Martinsville High School,” Bowles said.
“I think in previous years, city council has done a great job of pulling from our general funds and making sure taxes don’t increase for citizens,” Bowles said. “But citizens haven’t seen the severity of the budget cycle, and I think with all those things combined it makes the perfect storm to be anti-reversion.”
Bowles thanked her supporters, and said “I am thankful to have served eight years and I’m thankful to have been able to give back to our community.”
Turner also congratulated Jones and Rawls.
“I wish the winners the best of luck. I went to their victory celebration and pledged my support for the both of them,” Turner said.
He believes that once more information is successfully presented to the public regarding reversion, Martinsville residents will begin to see that it is a necessity.
“I think once the facts of reversion are out there and understood that it would be a no brainer, we might just have to revert. That side didn’t get played out, instead it was the other side,” Turner said.
“There was a lot of misinformation given. It is what it is. I guess other people will deal with it next year,” he added.
In Henry County, a Special Election to fill the unexpired term for the Ridgeway District School Board seat left vacant by the passing of Francis Zehr in July was decided, with Champ Hardie winning over Sidney McClure, the appointed as interim member by the board. Hardie received 2,271 votes. McClure received 425 votes.
Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, also won in Henry County, with more than 72 percent of the vote in 24 of the 27 precincts counted before press time, against his challenger, Taysha DeVaughan, a Democrat from Wise County.
Newly elected Martinsville City Council members Aaron Rawls (left) and LC Jones (right), celebrate their victory with council member Tammy Pearson (center) during a victory celebration Tuesday. (Contributed photo)
Henry County (Unofficial election results.)
City of Martinsville (Unofficial election results.)