Virden wins sheriff primary, tests negative for virus

Robert Smith

Eddie Virden got more than one result the night of June 30 that he was anxiously awaiting — he won Osage County’s Republican Primary for Sheriff, and he learned that he had tested negative for COVID-19.

Virden, who won nearly 59 percent of the vote in his sheriff primary race versus Rocky Davis, is essentially re-elected to a second four-year term. There were no Democratic or independent candidates this year for Osage County sheriff, and Virden will be unopposed in November.

“It’s easier to pull them as a winner than as a loser,” Viden said July 1, as he labored to collect his campaign signs from roadsides throughout the county. Once the signs were picked up, it would be back to work as usual, he said. “You can let them know I certainly appreciate all the support I got.”

The vote tally was 2,794 for Virden and 1,951 for Davis. Though Virden was a clear winner, he didn’t attend any watch parties or celebrate with supporters. The reason was that he had attended a baby shower and had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He stayed away from people until he got his test result, which turned out to be on election night.

“I tried to stay out of the public all I could through the whole deal,” Virden said, explaining that he wanted by all means to avoid the nightmare scenario of attending a watch party and then finding out he’d exposed dozens of people to COVID-19.

Picking up campaign signs the day after the election was a lot less stressful.

Elsewhere in Osage County on June 30, voters ended months of occasional drama regarding the District 2 County Commissioner race by choosing a Republican nominee and a Democratic nominee who have not been involved in the twists and turns of county politics.

Steve Talburt, who has worked as an investigator for the Sheriff’s Office, won the Republican Primary for District 2 commissioner, defeating Tom J. Teel, a former District 2 employee. Talburt won roughly 65 percent of the vote.

Joe Williams won the Democratic Primary for District 2 County Commissioner, defeating former commissioner Scott Hilton. Williams won more than 64 percent of the vote.

Talburt and Williams will be on the general election ballot in November.

Incumbent District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay did not seek re-election. Paslay has been charged in Osage County District Court with bid rigging. The case is still pending.

Teel, who lost the GOP primary, is charged in district court with two counts of embezzlement by employee. His case is also still pending. Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan, who brought the charges against Paslay and Teel, said they informed on each other.

Additionally, former commissioner Hilton, who lost at the polls four years ago to Paslay, had filed a petition for a protective order against Paslay in February. An online court record for that case did not reflect any resolution of the issue as of Monday, but Paslay said he had learned from his attorney that the case was being dismissed.

“I’m pleased with that result,” Paslay said Monday morning. His attorney, Stephen B. Riley, of Tulsa, told the Journal-Capital he had talked with the judge in the case, who told him it was being dismissed.

In other matters on Osage County ballots June 30, roughly 51.8 percent of Osage County voters opposed State Question 802, regarding Medicaid expansion. Statewide, the question was narrowly approved. The measure passed by about 6,500 votes overall.