After 23 years of public service, it’s unlikely anyone would think of less of Fayette County Sheriff Bill Laird if he decided to take a bit of a rest.

Although the four-term sheriff will finish that job Dec. 31, resting is not in the cards as the Democrat, with 73 of 118 precincts reporting late Tuesday, had a healthy lead in the race for the 11th District state Senate seat, representing Fayette, Clay, Nicholas, Upshur and Webster counties.

“I’ve been very active in public service and have held elected positions for 23 years and thought this was an opportunity to take the experience I’ve gained and get to work with others in terms of advancing the legislative process in Charleston,” Laird, who also served as a delegate in the 29th District, said of his decision to run.

Laird, who served as sheriff from 1989 to 1996 and from 2000 to present, says he is appreciative of his time in law enforcement, but looks forward to his new role.

“I think it’s time to move on and do something new, but I certainly have appreciated the opportunity to serve the citizens in the capacity I did for as many years as I did,” he said.

Health care, education and economic issues are among the challenges Laird said he expects to tackle in his new position.

“There are obviously a number of issues at the state level and I intend to work hard representing the interests (of West Virginians) in Charleston,” he said.

Laird said he is thankful for the support he has received during his tenure in law enforcement as well as during his Senate campaign.

“I’ve very appreciative for the votes I received and I look forward to the opportunity of representing the citizens in all five counties,” he said.

Just past midnight, Laird had received 14,046 votes, followed by 7,121 for Republican Aubry A. Wilson of Buckhannon and 1,563 for Mountain Party candidate Andy Waddell of Maysel in Clay County.

In his home county of Fayette, with all 39 precincts reporting, Laird captured a 76.73 to 19.49 percent margin over his closest challenger, which translated to 10,603 votes to 2,693.

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With all 39 precincts reporting early Wednesday, the three Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates’ 29th District were separated by fewer than 300 votes to claim the three seats.

Tom Louisos of Oak Hill led the ticket with 8,555 votes, or 23.43 percent, and was trailed in nearly a dead heat by incumbents David Perry, also of Oak Hill, with 8,298 votes, and Margaret Staggers of Fayetteville with 8,297 votes.

Louisos reclaimed the seat he lost by four votes to John Pino in 2006. He gained a bit of revenge in the May primary when he turned the tables, defeating Pino by 466 votes.

Staggers, an emergency room physician at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital in Beckley, said she looks forward to her second term in the House.

“I’m very thankful to get to go back to Charleston,” she said. “I’m honored and I hope I can do a good job for the people.”

Perry, who retired as principal of Collins Middle School following the 2007-08 school year, is currently serving his fourth term in the House and says he is excited to have the opportunity to continue representing the citizens of the district.

“I hope to continue the pursuits over the last four terms and to bring them into fruition,” he said, adding education, senior citizens and fiscal interests were at the top of his agenda.

Perry, who serves as the chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, said he believed the Democratic sweep of the House seats was the result of unprecedented hard work.

“I think the party was more mobilized this time than in the past and I appreciate all the hard work they did on behalf of every Democrat,” he said. “It’s a great day to be a Democrat.”

Louisos could not be reached for comment.

Others who captured votes in the 29th District race were Republicans Marshall W. Clay, 4,236; Daniel B. Wright, 4,171; and Steven Oliver Smith, 2,929.

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After serving in the department’s second position for 27 years, Fayette County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Steve Kessler captured the county’s sheriff race with a 66.13 percent to 33.71 percent margin over Republican Randy Prince.

“It looks like the voter turnout has been about 2-to-1 for me,” said Kessler, who was leading Republican Randy Prince 5,943 votes to 2,813 prior to the final tally. “I’m very well satisfied with the voter turnout and the people who supported me and it looks like I’m going to be the winner here real shortly, he said early Wednesday morning.

“I’m tickled to death.”

Kessler, who has served as chief deputy for six years, will replace current Sheriff Bill Laird, who was elected to the state Senate.

Laird said he believed Kessler will do a good job in his new role.

“He certainly is a very experienced law enforcement officer with many years experience as a policeman and he’s served as chief deputy for a period of time during my last two terms as sheriff,” he said. “I am confident he would do an outstanding job meeting law enforcement needs of the county and meeting the needs of citizens.”

Kessler said he is grateful for the support during the election and looks forward to the challenge that comes with his new position.

“I would like to thank the voters of Fayette County for voting for me and I intend to do a very good job for them,” he said.

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Fayette County residents elected Ken Eskew to a second term as county commissioner Tuesday.

Eskew, a Fayetteville resident and current commission president, received 7,678 votes, defeating Republican challenger Jim Murdock, also of Fayetteville, who received 6,587 votes.

“It was a tough election,” Eskew said. “I was real pleased. I thought it was a good campaign and it was a clean campaign.”

Eskew, a retired Army officer and Korean War veteran, said he looks forward to the opportunity to continue working to help the citizens of Fayette County in areas such as housing and jobs through new housing developments and ventures such as Wolf Creek Park.

“We brought the first phase of Wolf Creek and the goal now for the second phase is to really have an aggressive marketing program to attract some companies to bring some jobs in here,” he said. “It will take some time, but we’ll continue to work on that effort, aggressively pursuing whatever comes along.”

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Incumbent Judges John W. Hatcher Jr. in the 2nd Division of the 12th District and Paul M. Blake Jr. in the 1st Division of the 12th District were unopposed and tallied 12,240 and 11,711 votes respectively.

Also unopposed were the following incumbents: Democrat Janet Steele Frye, family court judge, 11,204; Democrat Carl L. Harris, prosecuting attorney, 11,568; Democrat Eddie Young, assessor, 11,899; Democrat Leon Spencer, surveyor, 11,602; and Democrat magistrates Sharon McGraw, 9,496; Michael (Mike) D. Parsons, 9,186; Danita G. Young, 8,960; and Charles L. Garvin III, 8,954.

(Additional reporting by Matthew Hill and Cheryl Keenan.)

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