ST. CLAIRSVILLE - In a local race some viewed as a real possibility in seeing the defeat of an incumbent, Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland retained his seat on the board of commissioners Tuesday.
And he did so by a decent margin.
Coffland garnered 12,529 votes, nearly 43 percent of the total vote. Runner-up Jerry Echemann was more than 3,300 votes behind with 9,208 and Doug Longenette was third with 7,628 votes.
Matt Coffland, center, celebrates with friends and family at the?Tiger Pub in Shadyside. Coffland defeated Jerry Echemann and Doug Longenette to retain his seat on the Belmont County board of commissioners. See pages B1-B4 for more election coverage.
For Coffland, it was a victorious end to a difficult last few months, both in his personal and political lives.
"The past few months have been hard on my supporters," Coffland said. "This was a big win.
"I felt good going in. I think my hard work over the last four years has paid off.
"But you never know. I think the voters realized that I've worked hard for them.
"I want to continue to move Belmont County forward."
Coffland was recently found not guilty in Belmont County Common Pleas Court on charges of assaulting a peace officer after he was arrested in July after allegedly throwing a bottle at a liquor control agent during Friday's festivities at Jamboree in the Hills.
Coffland and his legal team pressed to have the case decided prior to Tuesday's election and being found not guilty was likely a boost to his campaign and any potentially wavering supporters who were waiting until the trial's outcome to decide where to cast their votes.
Throughout the trial and even prior to the July incident, Coffland stood on his record as a commissioner, both in what he's accomplished and what he plans to do moving forward.
He wanted to continue to serve as one of three commissioners for the county because he sees where the county is headed and wants to play a large role in ensuring the county stays headed in the right direction.
"I want to continue to serve as commissioner because I believe the achievements we've had during the last four years has laid out a great opportunity for Belmont County heading into the future," Coffland said. "We've performed a lot of hard work over the last four years that has opened many doors.
"I think Belmont County is going to continue to grow.
"We've had an unemployment rate down from 12.5 percent to 7.3 percent.
"That's happened since 2008."
One of the biggest challenges facing not only Belmont County, but counties across the Buckeye State, is the slashing to local government funding being dictated from Columbus.
It's a problem government on both the county and local levels has been dealing with.
"The funding is a major problem," Coffland said. "With the cuts to local government funding, it's affected everything from the villages and townships to the cities and the county.
"We just hope with the oil and gas boom ... we've been trying to work on something of a severance tax that the host counties will receive more in oil and as money in the future.
"It's our roads, bridges and grounds they are tearing up. We should get a greater percentage. Hopefully, that will help the local government funding rebound."
Fellow commissioner Ginny Favede also was re-elected. Favede, who ran unopposed, garnered 21,734 votes.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org