Following a resounding primary victory in May, Davidson County Juvenile Court clerk candidate David Smith, a Democrat, was immediately crowned the frontrunner in August’s general election.
Smith, a General Sessions Court officer, had accumulated nearly 50 percent of the vote, crushing six others in the Democratic primary, including incumbent Vic Lineweaver, who mustered just 12 percent of the vote.
The hard part was over, wasn’t it? Come August, a match-up against a Republican candidate in a decidedly Democratic county would surely give Smith the advantage.
But based on early voting figures, it appears Smith could be in for a real battle with Eric Crafton, the conservative Bellevue council member, known best for his failed English-only push.
As of late Thursday afternoon, 18,154 Davidson County residents had taken part in early voting. Of those, 9,632 had voted in the Republican primary compared to 8,436 who had voted in the Democratic primary. Eighty-six voters chose to cast their ballots in the Metro general election but not in either primary.
Clearly, Republicans have been energized by the state’s competitive Republican gubernatorial primary –– and it could give Crafton a significant boost.
“Since I’m the Republican nominee in the general election, obviously I would hope that more Republicans vote than Democrats,” Crafton said. “But, I’m also seeking as many Democrat votes I can get because I don’t want this to be a race about partisanship. I want it to be about competence.”
If turnout on Election Day reflects early voting patterns –– and it often does –– a Smith victory would require a huge chunk of voters in the Republican primary to cross over and vote for a candidate with a “D” next to his name when it comes to the Juvenile Court clerk race.
“I think it concerns all Democratic candidates,” Smith said of the early voting numbers. “It seems that the Republicans have taken the lead in the numbers. All we can hope for is that the Democrats are waiting until Election Day to get out and vote.”
The Smith camp likely predicted the Republican-turnout factor could present a problem. Throughout the campaign, Smith has cited a group he calls “Republicans for David Smith.” Indeed, several notable Republicans have pledged their support for Smith, including former Metro Councilman Adam Dread.
And the early voting figures may not be entirely telling. There are likely some centrist Republican primary voters who, turned off by Crafton’s famed English-only drive, voted for Smith instead. And then there are Democrats who may be voting in the Republican primary so they can have a say on the lone competitive gubernatorial race.
“All you can do is keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best,” Smith said.