UPDATED 1 a.m. with 100 percent precincts reporting — King wins with 19,065 votes (73 percent) to Harden's 6,972 votes (27 percent)
Former Pine Bluff Mayor Dutch King, who was out of politics for several years, got back in a big way Tuesday night, defeating current Justice of the Peace Ted Harden in the race for County Judge of Jefferson County Tuesday night.
Incomplete, unofficial totals with 148 of 201 precincts reporting show:
• King — 17,667 votes, 74.55%
• Harden — 6,030 votes, 25.45%
“I’m ecstatic and humbled,” King said. “It’s tough to find the proper words and I owe so many people so much for encouraging me and supporting me all along the way.
“I look forward to serving the people of Jefferson County and doing the best job I can for them,” King said.
King finished first in a three-man Democratic Party primary race, ahead of Assistant Pine Bluff Chief of Police Ivan Whitfield and Justice of the Peace Alfred Carroll, then won a run-off over Whitfield, collecting 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for Whitfield.
King served as mayor of Pine Bluff for four years and was a member of the city council for six years before that.
Harden, who was also unopposed for another term on the quorum court, will retain that seat.
Harden had no Republican Party primary opposition and filed for the county judge’s race just a few minutes before the filing deadline closed, and said he filed for the position because no other candidate experience in county government. He cited his 16 years of experience on the quorum court.
In an interview in late October, King said if he is elected, his top priority will be “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“We’ve got to get good paying jobs with benefits,” King said. “There a lot of people who have jobs, but they don’t have benefits and that’s a tough situation.”
Regarding his lack of experience in county government, King said he would “have to learn some things on the job,” but noted that he had “managed businesses and been in politics for most of his life.
“I can work with anyone and everyone,” King said. “I enjoy working with people and helping people who need help.”
King said a major topic during the campaign was county roads and said he would try to help all of Jefferson County, “but we’re going to spend out money wisely. “We’ve got to have good roads and good infrastructure because those are some of the things industries look at when they’re considering a place to locate.”
Harden said economic development would play a major factor in his administration, and said he would call a “quasi-summit” on economic development, which would include mayors of towns and cities in the county, educators, the chairman of the tax board and others.
“We need to be a positive force in revitalization and to do that, we need a strategy, a plan to attract industry and a work force that is available and trained for that industry,” Harden said. “If we can spawn growth, we can increase the tax base and make life better for everyone in the county.”
Harden also said he would work on repairing county roads, saying “we’ve got some roads that are impassable right now and I want to work on that.”
King collected more than twice as much cash as Harden did during the campaign, according to their contribution and expenditure reports that were filed in the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office prior to the Oct. 30 deadline.
The report showed King had collected $19,465 while Harden collected $9,715.