The voter turnout during Tuesday’s special election for Mississippi House District 101 was probably nowhere near as high as election officials would have liked, but it was enough to send two of the five candidates to an April 2 runoff election.
Because none of the candidates garnered the required 50 percent of the vote plus one vote, the two candidates who earned the most votes - Kent McCarty and Steven Utroska - will face each other in the runoff. In final but unofficial results from the election, McCarty led with 1,149 votes, followed by Utroska with 733, Andrew Waites with 687, Daniel Waide with 231 and Gary L. Crist with 217.
In terms of percentage, 3,202 of 16,243 registered voters throughout the 10 precincts in the district cast a ballot, for a voter turnout of 19.71 percent. McCarty pulled in 38.69 percent of the vote, followed by Utroska with 23.47 percent.
As of Tuesday night, all votes had been accounted for, with the exception of 17 affidavit ballots that will be counted within five days of the election.
McCarty is the owner of Java Moe’s Coffee Company and a graduate of Oak Grove High School and the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon during his time at Southern Miss.
“I’m really excited about the runoff, and I was really pleased with the support that we got,” McCarty said after the election. “I’m so thankful to everybody that showed up during the week of Spring Break, because a lot of people are out of town, so I appreciate everybody coming out and voting, and everybody who helped out at the polls.
“It was a really fun day for my first big election like this, and we had a great time. Honestly, the support is just humbling, and I’m excited for the runoff for sure.”
Utroska is professional engineer, a small business owner and the chairman of the Piney Woods Conservation Group. He serves as president of the Rotary Club of Hattiesburg, is a member of the Pine Belt Young Professionals, and is an affiliate member of the Hattiesburg Area Association of Realtors.
“I’m certainly looking forward to (the runoff),” Utroska said. “Before the race (Tuesday) I got out and knocked on over 2,000 doors personally, and I got to meet a lot of great people.
“I look forward to doing the same thing over the next three weeks - getting out and talking to as many people as I can, and knocking on as many doors as I can. I want to meet the people of Lamar County and hear their concerns, and I’m just looking forward to going to the runoff.”
The winner of the runoff will fill the seat vacated by former representative Brad Touchstone, who was elected in November as the new Lamar County Court Judge. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on election day.
Because this is a special election, all candidates run as non-partisan.