Republican J.D. Clark was elected Wise County judge Tuesday night – and it was a landslide.
Clark, the mayor of Chico, collected 83 percent of the vote to soundly defeat Democrat Jim Stegall, 10,364 to 2,121.
“I went into this planning to win, and even so, I don’t have the words to say how it feels,” Clark said after the votes were in. “To have 83 percent of the people in the county say they want me to work for them – it blows my mind.
“I’m going to work every day not only for that 83 percent, but also to show that 17 percent that I work for them, too.”
Clark held an election watch party at the Decatur Visitors Center, and Stegall came in just before 9:45 p.m. to congratulate his opponent.
“The people have spoken,” he said. “They have done their job by voting, and I’m especially proud of those that voted for me.
“In the beginning, I said I wanted to have some discussion of issues and that didn’t materialize the way I had hoped,” Stegall said. “I regret that.”
Clark jumped out to a big lead as soon as the early voting numbers rolled in just after 7. He had pulled in 4,807 votes to Stegall’s 1,011, an 87.62 percent majority that barely slipped even after the election-day votes were counted.
Throughout the evening, Clark was constantly caught in a handshake or hug as family, friends and county officials popped in to check the numbers and offer congratulations. A group of his former Bowie High School students even made the trek to Wise County to support their teacher – a man they now consider a friend.
“We figured it would mean a lot to him for us be here, as a friend,” Carter Shackelford said. Although he was happy for Clark, he and the other students said they do miss him in the halls of BHS, and it’s a different atmosphere without him.
The city of Chico will also have to adjust to life without Clark as its leader. The 28-year-old was serving his third term as mayor but will turn in his letter of resignation this week, effective when he takes the oath of office as county judge.
At the end of a long night, Clark hugged his mom, Lori, and shared a few words with her before standing to make his official victory speech.
He and Republican Gaylord Kennedy, who won his race for Precinct 4 county commissioner, shook hands, congratulating each other and pledging to work hard and work together.
“I just want to say thank you to so many people,” Clark said.
The newly elected judge said he didn’t have a brain trust or a fancy political team running his campaign.
“It didn’t take any committee of people, it just took people who agreed with what I was doing and believed in what I was doing,” he said. “I didn’t have to sit them down and say this is how we’ll do it … we just organically did what was right.
“I wanted issues to be part of the conversation, and I think it’s obvious, not only did it become part of the converstion, everybody said, ‘we’re with ya,'” he said. “I’m going to work for all of Wise County as I know Gaylord is, too, and like he said, ‘Let’s get to work!'”