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Bailey-Butts hopes for smooth transition after ending Davis’ 12-year stint as Newton County coroner
Dorothea Bailey-Butts
Dorothea Bailey-Butts

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County has elected a new coroner for the first time in 12 years after voters chose registered nurse Dorothea Bailey-Butts to lead the state-mandated office.

Voters chose Bailey-Butts with 53% of the vote to incumbent Tommy Davis’ 47% Tuesday in the Nov. 3 General Election in Newton County.

The coroner-elect said she is already working with Davis to prepare for her new position.

“We only have Newton County in our best interest and it won’t be a concern once we start transitioning to the office,” Bailey-Butts said.

“We are really hoping for a smooth transition,” she said. 

Davis did not return phone calls or emails from The Covington News for comment. 

The coroner position is mandated in the Georgia Constitution. It is required to investigate any death in a county that meets criteria specified in state law, including suspicious or unexpected deaths and those caused by violence or suicide.

Bailey-Butts, who is a registered nurse, said she was “also talking to other coroners in other counties to help mentor me and give me some support in this new role that I am going to take.”

“I said in my campaign videos that if I’m elected, the office will have transparency. We will make sure that every case is handled properly and with due process to ensure that everything is taken into account. 

“I will also use my medical knowledge to fully understand the situation and details of every case we will be handling in the future,” she said. 

Bailey-Butts said she would be the county’s first Black coroner when she takes office Jan. 1.

She is a registered nurse and businesswoman and publicly cited her experience in the medical field as a reason for supporting her candidacy.

Soon after her Tuesday victory, she said on her Facebook page, “What a journey!”

“Today we made history. Today we made a change. I am grateful to all the people who supported and believed in me all the way. 

“To my husband, thank you for all the support. To my children, thank you for inspiring me to be the best person I can be. To my mother, thank you for making me who I am today.

“To all my friends who supported, shared, and helped me in this journey, thank you! To all the people who believed and voted for me, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart! I cannot thank each and every one of you but know that I am very grateful. God bless Newton County!”

Davis, a Republican, was seeking a fourth term in the job after his first election in 2008.

Bailey-Butts, a Democrat who lost a bid for the office to Davis in 2016, won this time with majorities in half of the county’s 22 precincts. She earned 27,995 votes and Davis received 25,253. 

Davis earned substantially more Election Day in-person votes than his opponent, but Bailey-Butts won many more absentee and advance votes in the race.

She also won in all the Newton County precincts carried by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden except for Covington Mills. 

Davis received 52% of votes cast at Covington Mills to win a precinct Biden carried with 53%.

The loss likely will end Davis’ 17 years of service in the Newton County coroner’s office. 

Davis, who also is a Covington funeral director, served as a deputy coroner for five years before his election in 2008.

He said on his Facebook page, “I would like to thank everyone who voted for me and supported me during this election and throughout my career with the coroner’s office. 

“I have made more friends than I could have ever imagined and for that I am truly blessed. 

“We have fallen a little short in this election and this will be my last year as your coroner but I am forever grateful to so many people that it would be impossible to begin to list them here.

“God is in control and has blessed me my entire life and for that I am grateful. 

“I have been in the funeral business for 37 years and have owned J.C. Harwell and Son Funeral Home for almost 10 years now. I will continue to serve those in need through my business. 

“J.C. Harwell has always had a motto, “Dependable Friends in Time of Need” and that’s exactly the motto we will continue on with.

“Thank you again to all my friends, supporters, and most importantly my family for standing with me during my 17 years with the coroner’s office.”