PHOTO: Chas Morton, left, and Matt Williams campaign at Westhaven on Tuesday, May 2, before polls close.//Elect Chas Morton County Commissioner Facebook page.
By BROOKE WANSER
On Wednesday morning, Chas Morton and Matt Williams drove around town together, removing their campaign signs from yards after a hard fought county commission race in District 9 culminated with wins for the duo.
“We knew it was going to be a tight race from the get go,” Williams said in between stops to pull signs out of the ground. “You had several well run campaigns that got their voters out.”
The District 9 race resulted in the most ballots cast for a county commission race, with 4,137 votes.
Administrator of Elections Chad Gray said 19 percent of the district’s registered voters showed up for the race.
In comparison, District 7, a seven-way contested race with two Democratic candidates, only received 2,794 votes.
The primary election saw a total of 10.1 percent of registered voters casting ballots.
Morton said he was surprised and pleased with the turnout in his district.
When he threw his hat in the ring, Morton told his wife, Christa, “‘We don’t want to run this to lose,’” he said. “We wanted to increase interest in local elections.”
Morton counted 600 voters on election day Tuesday at the Westhaven Clubhouse.
The amount of voters in District 9, “that’s a statement,” he said, pointing to the “quality” of candidates in the race.
Incumbent Todd Kaestner received 24.4 percent of the vote, being narrowly edged out of the Republican primary by Williams, who received 28.4 percent, and Morton, with 27.9 percent. Bob Peterman took 19.1 percent, still with far more votes than most districts saw.
After moving to Williamson in 2011, Kaestner was originally elected as a district representative in 2014.
Incumbent Sherri Clark chose not to run for re-election, instead supporting Peterman and Kaestner.
Neither Kaestner nor Peterman responded to a request for an interview for this story.
Williams, who was elected in 2014 to the District 10 seat, resigned from the commission to move back into his childhood home in District 9 after his father’s death in 2016.
After growing up in Grassland, Williams left to attend the Naval Academy, later becoming a major in the Marines before returning home.
Though Morton is older, both men attended high school at Battle Ground Academy.
Morton is an attorney with PN+M Law in downtown Franklin, and a fifth generation Williamson County resident whose uncle was the late Johnny Guffee.
Priorities after swearing in
Williams said once he is sworn into office in August, he wants to focus on improving the relationships between the state, county, and cities in order to solve infrastructure and educational woes that occur with growth.
“We’ve got to increase funding, or we’ve got to slow the rate of growth down some,” he said. “We can’t forget what has made our community so desirable, and that’s first and foremost education.”
Morton, a first time elected official, said he would focus on settling into the seat and listening to those on the commission in his first term, also with an eye toward managing growth.
What the results mean for the county
Williams said the district’s high voter turnout should be encouraging to all candidates and constituents.
“Because it was a pretty tight race, is an acknowledgement to the legitimacy of all the candidates,” he said.
“We really ran positive campaigns and that’s ultimately what people value about our community: good-hearted, level-headed people whose hearts are in the right spot.” Williams said of his and Morton’s races.
He acknowledged those who voted for Kaestner and Peterman: “We’re going to do our best to represent all interests across the county.”
The election commission will certify results on Friday, May 4, at 4:00 p.m.