BELMONT — Absentee ballots could have an effect on the Republican primary for county legislator in District III, but for now, two incumbents and a challenger are the leading vote-getters after Tuesday’s vote.

Unofficially, Debra A. Root and Dwight R. Fanton have 263 and 235 votes, respectively. The next two GOP candidates are fairly close in votes, with challenger William G. Dibble II having the third-highest total with 168, and incumbent Scott R. Burt currently with 162. Another challenger, John Ramsey, finished Tuesday with 140 votes. The candidates with the three highest vote totals will run on the Republican ticket this fall.

“We won’t be counting absentee ballots until next Tuesday after mail delivery. It’s the same thing for (overseas ballots),” said Republican Election Commissioner Richard Hollis. “They have to be postmarked on the 11th but they can come back until next Tuesday.”

For District 3, Hollis said, 66 ballots were sent out and 18 had been returned as of Tuesday.

Some of the District III GOP candidates said the turnout for Tuesday’s primary was disappointing, when 363 ballots were cast. 

“I feel bad for the people in the district. Only a little over 300 voters turned out. That doesn’t indicate the desires of the people. That was a disappointment in the political process,” said Burt.

Burt recalled that four years ago, he finished third in the primary and was the top vote-getter on Election Day.

“I quietly expected it to be just the way it ended up. I’ll be on the ballot in the general election and I have the endorsement of the Reform Party. I feel that I represent people across the different parties very, very well,” he said.

Root said, “I personally feel I’m sitting in a pretty good spot right now. I think overall I was surprised by the low turnout overall of people voting. Certainly there are a lot more Republicans in our district than that. But we were the only district who had a primary going on at the county level. I think that’s probably one reason why the turnout was what it was.

“Voter turnout in November will be very important. The whole county will be on the alert for voting because every district will have voting going on in their district,” she said.

Fanton said, “I really appreciate the support and I’m looking forward to completing some projects too, like the Crossroads project and getting the landfill capped. I want to thank everybody that voted for me.”

Another project is renovation of the third floor, old jail space in the County Building for departments in need of space.

“Certainly we are getting that done without borrowing the money to accomplish that. We do bridges now without borrowing the money. We used to have to borrow the money to do bridges back in 2003-04,” he said.

Fanton talked about what he said was a misunderstanding of the county’s fund balance.

“There’s been articles about how our fund balance is $39 million. All but $22 million of that is pretty much committed to the landfill closure and the upstairs building and the Crossroads.”

Dibble said it’s a wait-and-see situation as to how the absentee ballot voting will go. The candidate was on the Board of Legislators several years ago and is hoping to return in January.

“People asked me to run and I thought about it and I just said if I can make a difference in people’s lives for the betterment of the community, that's what it's all about,” he said. "I've got some things i think we should do in the county — working on higher education, good-paying jobs and expanding the tax base, low-cost home cell phone service for homes in District III and the county, working on public water and sewer to Crossroads,” he said.

Dibble said another possibility he would like to see is creation of a state park in Allegany County if the state could deed some land from the Department of Environmental Conservation to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“That's a way of expanding the tax base, sales tax — bring people in to enjoy the area,” he said.

Ramsey said he was hoping to be third in the primary.

“I was a little disappointed with the low turnout. When I collected signatures, the printout of all the Rep. in District III was 2,835,” he said. “I thought I found a lot of support when I went door to door. I collected 155 signatures. I think some people didn’t even know it (the primary) was happening either. I talked to one guy at the (Scio) Mini-Mart and he said he didn’t know it was happening.”