Linda McDaniel was at work at the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce at 8:30 Wednesday morning — after a 4 a.m. call from her daughter about a sick child and a long night awaiting primary results.
McDaniel defeated Frank Arden in the Republican primary for tax commissioner and will face incumbent Lisa Wright in the November general election. Wright faced no opposition in the Democratic primary.
“I am very relieved,” McDaniel said after her 3,002-2,041 win over Arden. “I feel good because so many people helped me and supported me. It was just good to win.”
McDaniel and Arden waited it out Tuesday night at the Effingham Board of Education auditorium as the board of elections counted the votes across the street.
“It was anxious,” McDaniel said. “But it gave everybody a chance to solve a lot of problems and communicate.”
Arden and McDaniel both campaigned on improving the service at the tax commissioner’s office, both through customer relations and with emphasis on online capabilities. Arden, a former banker in Savannah and currently a self-employed financial analyst, also extolled his background.
“You always feel like you could do more, but I don’t feel that way,” Arden said of his campaign. “I feel I got my message out. But there is a great mystery as to what voters think and do.”
Said McDaniel: “Technology is important to some, but customer service is important to all.”
On the campaign trail, Arden said he would not only make online payment of taxes available if he were elected, but he also would put information on the department’s Web site, such as a 10-year history of tax values in the county and how the money is disbursed among the governments.
The online services issue became more of a symbol throughout the campaign that the tax commissioner’s office needed to do more to modernize itself, according to Arden.
“I have no doubt that either Lisa Wright or Linda McDaniel will bring the technology up to date,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time and getting it done.”
Both Arden and McDaniel were taken aback by the low voter turnout, about 24 percent out of more than 26,800 registered voters in the county.
“I thought there’d be a 6,000 (voter) turnout,” Arden said. “I thought with the intensity of the sheriff’s race there would be a bigger turnout.”
Arden called McDaniel on Wednesday morning to congratulate her on her victory.
“All along, I was going to run a clean campaign,” she said. “I think we ran a clean campaign and I didn’t have an issue with how he ran his campaign.”
Said Arden: “I was proud of what we did. It was clean and issues-oriented.”
McDaniel was quick to point out that it’s one race down and another to go.
“We’re not there yet,” she said. “I didn’t see the need to have a victory celebration. We’re only halfway there.”
There were a handful of unopposed candidates who also will not face foes in the November election — coroner David Exley, county commission chairman at large Dusty Zeigler, Superior Court clerk Elizabeth Hursey, 4th District Commissioner Reggie Loper and 1st District Commissioner Bob Brantley.
A bad relay switch on a voting machine used at the Grace Community Church held up the tallying Tuesday night.
Elections officials were able to retrieve the results eventually and are sending the machine back to the manufacturer for repair.
McDaniel also now has a network of supporters and volunteers to draw upon for the November election. Arden said his next task will be to pull up the signs he and his supporters planted across the county.
“And my son and I are going to go fishing for the first time this summer,” he said.