By Ashley Thornton
and Lou Elliott Jones
If one thing is clear in the results of Tuesday's elections it's that Levy County is divided over the direction it wants to go.
The results are unofficial but with all 13 precincts reporting, former County Commissioner Lilly Rooks defeated incumbent Commissioner Ryan Bell by five votes in the District 4 race for the Republican nomination and Rock Meeks defeated incumbent Commissioner Chad Johnson by 39 votes to win the Republican nomination for District 2.
Those results could change as the Supervisor of Elections Office reportedly has 14 provisional ballots and state law calls for an automatic recount in races where there is a margin of 0.5 percent of less. A spokeswoman for Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones said checks were being done on the vote.
Adding to the suspense is the introduction of new voting machines. Jones purchased the machines two years ahead of the mandated change for 2016 elections. She said she would like to use them this year to stave off any problems ahead of the voter heavy 2016 presidential elections.
In unofficial results Rooks had a 5-vote lead over Bell with 1,726 to 1,721, and Meeks was leading by 38 votes over Johnson with 1,739 to 1,701.
The District 4 race for the Republican nomination was a replay of the 2010 general election as Rooks battled to regain the seat she lost to Bell. For Rooks, the race was complicated by two strokes she suffered in the spring and summer limiting her public appearances.
For Meeks, while he is new to county politics, this is not his first foray into politics, having won election as a town councilman in Otter Creek when he was 18.
Before the unofficial tally was released Meeks said, "Right now I'm humble, that's what I am. That's my thoughts right now ... the Lord willing, our hard work will pay off." After the results shwed him winning, Meeks said, "I'm overwhelmed... I don't know. It's a lot of emotions. Didn't expect it to be so close... I'm very thankful. I thank the Lord... it's going to be a waiting game now until Thursday at 5 o clock."
He also said he has another race Nov. 4 against Rob Studstill. In the meantime, he said he's going to "rest a little bit and get ready to start beating the bushes again." He said this has been the "cleanest race I've ever seen."
Johnson said before the results came in "...as far as my thoughts, it's been an odd race from the beginning," saying that it's been a "quiet" race. He also said that lots of people have been waving and honking, but that that didn't necessarily mean anything.
Bell, who spent the day waving to motorists, said that it had been "a long day, a little warm," but that it had been "positive."
Rooks said after winning, "I'm happy." When asked what she plans to do, she said, "Work hard for the people." Noting that they still have another race, she said she's going to "put it in the Lord's hands."
If the unofficial results hold up, Rooks will face Democrat Jamie Griffin and Meeks will face independent Robert Studstill in the Nov. 4 general election.
In other results, Levy County voters:
• Gave incumbent Gov. Rock Scott the nod for the Republican nomination with 88 percent of the 3,375 votes cast in that race
• Incumbent Congressman Ted Yoho received 78 percent of the 3,514 votes cast in his race against fellow Republican Jake Rush
• Former Gov. Charlie Crist received almost 58 percent of the vote in his bid for the Democratic nomination against state Sen. Nan Rich