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UPDATE: Fields wins commission District 1 race

Angie Mayes • Aug 8, 2018 at 10:25 AM

After the two provisional votes were vetted Wednesday morning, Wilson County Commission District 1 candidate Robert Fields beat challenger Tim Roehler by one vote, which made him the winner of the race. 

The other ballot was ineligible, because a vote was not cast in the District 1 commission race, according to Administrator of Elections Phillip Warren.

The District 1 election was a controversial one after Fields made racially charged comments about Roehler’s wife who is African American and his children who are interracial and the fact that Roehler “kept quiet” about those and other details about his personal life when he talked to voters. On Sunday afternoon, Fields said he would concede to Roehler on Monday, due to the controversary that surrounded Fields’ comments.

However, Sunday evening, he changed his mind and said he decided to wait for the provisional votes. Fields has not made a public statement on his intentions at this point. Multiple calls, texts and Facebook messages to Fields on Wednesday morning were not returned.

Roehler said he was “disappointed by the results and not sure of what the next step would be. [Fields] has said he will not take the oath of office, but he also said he would concede to me [prior to the provisional ballot count]. He could not legally do that, but it would have been symbolic. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens.”

Roehler said if Fields does not take the oath of office and [Roehler] is appointed in that spot, “I will be happy to serve. I will serve this district fairly and evenly, and that’s what the people in this district deserve.”

Roehler said he would put his name on the November ballot, were there to be a special election for the seat. He said in the future, he plans to serve District 1 in any way he can.

Fields and Roehler were tied at 526 votes with the two provisional votes up in the air after the Aug. 2 Wilson County General Election.

Fields can now choose to take the seat, or, with notice to the county mayor and commission, not take the seat. If that were the case, the commission would appoint a replacement, but there’s no guarantee it would be Roehler. 

Outgoing Commissioner Jeff Joines has said he plans to file a complaint with the Wilson County Ethics Committee and launch a process to oust Fields from the commission were he to be seated.

“If he is sworn into office, I will [file the complaint],” Joines said. “I will have the ethics complaint filled out and ready to go the minute he takes the oath of office.”

District 9 Commissioner Sara Patton said she plans on “presenting a resolution that states that I don’t agree with Mr. Fields’ [comment]. It doesn’t do anything [to him], but it just presents our opinion.”

She said no commissioners have spoken to her to co-sponsor the resolution, but they are welcome to do so if they wish. However, Joines said he plans to be a co-sponsor.

Commissioner-elect Chris Dowell, who is black, married to a white woman, and they have children, said Fields “shouldn’t be seated near me, because he probably won’t like me.”

In the District 6 race, Kenny Reich and Kevin Graves remain tied with 571 votes apiece. With no provisional ballots in that race, either the commission will cast the deciding vote, or it will be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot as a runoff. The commission is expected to make that decision at its Aug. 20 meeting. 

In the District 7 Wilson County Board of Education race, Chad Karl was three votes ahead of James “Rusty” Keith, 1,600 to 1,597, after the votes were counted. Wednesday’s provisional ballot count showed one vote went to Keith, and Karl was named the winner by two votes.

Results in the other Wilson County General Election races will be certified Aug. 20, Warren said.

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