Clint Davis endured a rough couple of weeks in his bid to unseat incumbent James Owen as county attorney, but in the end, the voters spoke.

And how.

Sixty-two percent of them said they wanted a change, and that the 37-year-old Davis was the man they wanted to replace Owen as their county attorney, beginning the first day of next year.

“Most of all I want to thank my family and my friends for their support, particularly over the last couple of weeks,” the soft-spoken Davis said from an election watch party on the third floor of the First State Bank building in Athens late Tuesday.

Without mentioning names, Davis appeared to be referring to the public call by local attorney Fred Head to have Davis removed from his position as chairman-elect of the Athens Chamber of Commerce for allegedly not revealing his bankruptcy in 2003. Owen also ran advertising mentioning his opponent’s bankruptcy.

The Chamber called an emergency meeting the day after Head addressed 15 empty chairs at the Chamber, giving Davis an immediate vote of confidence and, in effect, appearing to repudiate Head’s demands.

Whether the voters did the same thing Tuesday is another matter for conjecture, but the final tally showed Davis with 5,521 votes to Owen’s 3,307.

Owen went down much the same way he has conducted his office the last eight years — in controversy.

Late in the evening, when it was obvious he was going to take an old-fashioned political thrashing from his opponent, the county attorney avoided political correctness, as he often has in the past.

“I’m concerned for the people of Henderson County,” Owen said. “I don’t believe he’s (Davis) capable enough to do the job because of his lack of experience.”

Whether Owen was speaking out of anger, or simply from his heart, county residents will have to argue among themselves.

“I’m concerned for the people of Henderson County,” Owen said. “I don’t believe he’s (Davis) capable enough to do the job because of his lack of experience.”

Davis avoided answering Owen’s criticism directly.

“I’ll let him vent and we’ll leave it at that,” he said. “In my heart I believe it was a change that will be good for the county.”

Davis said he has no ill will toward his opponent or anyone else.

Asked if the events of the last couple of weeks may have worked in his favor, Davis said, “I don’t think it was a determining factor. I do believe it worked to James’ detriment, but I don’t think it affected the final outcome.

“I don’t hold a grudge or have ill-will toward James Owen or anyone else. I hope we can put aside our differences and work for the good of Henderson County.”

Owen agreed with Davis that the events of the last couple of weeks had little affect on the race. “The early balloting was before all this happened, and he had a big lead then,” Owen said.

Asked what he thought happened, Owen flashed a wry grin and said, “Obviously, I made some people mad.”

As for his immediate plans, Owen said, “I’m going to be the county attorney until the end of the year, just like I promised I would.”

Davis will have eight long months to think about what he’ll do when he takes office. “I’m looking forward to taking office and working for the citizens of Henderson County,” he said. Until then, he plans to continue with his law practice.

And yes, he said, he will definitely give up his law practice and be a full-time county attorney when he takes office — a promise Davis made to voters during the campaign while criticizing his opponent for keeping his law practice alive during his tenure.

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