05/12/04 — Elections: It will be an interesting election year to watch

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Elections: It will be an interesting election year to watch

Wayne County’s ballot for this election year ended up with some fascinating aspects, even for those who are not political junkies.

For example, when the filing period for candidates came to an end Friday, two unexpected primaries had developed: Two Democrats will oppose each other for nomination as register of deeds in July, and two Republicans will oppose each other for the House of Representatives nomination in District 10.

Lois Mooring, who works in the Clerk of Courts Office, will run against John Chance, who was appointed by the county’s Democratic Executive Committee to serve out a partial term as register of deeds. The winner in the primary must then run against Republican Chris West in the general election in November.

Republican activist Willie Ray Starling of Mount Olive will try to take the nomination in the 10th House District from Republican Rep. Stephen LaRoque of Kinston. The winner will face Democrat James Llewellyn of Kinston in November.

The biggest shocker of all, though, was not a filing but a withdrawal.

Democrat Frank Ballance announced on the day of the filing deadline that he had decided not to run for re-election to Congress from the 1st District, which includes much of Wayne County.

Ballance said he was backing out because of his health. He has been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and he said the stress of another campaign could worsen his condition. He has also had to endure the stress of having a foundation that he established investigated by law enforcement officials after it received a stinging report from the state auditor.

The congressman announced his withdrawal Friday morning, just hours before the noon deadline. But the day before, he had telephoned Judge G.K. Butterfield of Wilson to let him in on what he planned to do. Butterfield had been considered a likely candidate for the office but had said he would not run if Ballance did.

Sure enough, Butterfield went to the elections office Friday morning and filed.

The 1st District is considered a black district. It was represented for 10 years by Eva Clayton before she stepped aside two years ago. Of the black candidates who are running, Butterfield is the best known and appears to have the advantage. Judging by his record behind the bench, he would make an able congressman.

One of the most fascinating races is the race for governor. Democratic Gov. Mike Easley can safely look beyond his little-known primary competition, Rickey Kepfer of Broadway. But on the Republican side there is a crowded ballot for the primary.

Charlotte’s Richard Vinroot is on it again — for the third time. Then there is Bill Cobey, state Republican chairman and former congressman; Patrick Ballentine of Wilmington, former Republican leader in the Senate; Dan Barrett, a sharp young county commissioner from Advance; Fern Shubert of Marshville, a CPA who has proven herself competent in the state Senate; and Southern Pines insurance man George Little, who has won endorsements from GOP luminaries like former Gov. Jim Holshouser and former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner.

That is a pretty solid bunch of prospects and, if they resist bloodying up each other in the primary, the winner should be able to give Easley some formidable competition in November.

It will be an interesting election year at all levels.

Published in Editorials on May 12, 2004 11:56 AM