08/18/04 — Wayne votes for Stewart, but Atkinson gets nod

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Wayne votes for Stewart, but Atkinson gets nod

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on August 18, 2004 2:02 PM

A longtime educator filled the final spot on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot by winning the Democratic runoff for the race to replace Mike Ward, departing superintendent of public instruction.

June Atkinson defeated Marshall Stewart for the party's nomination for superintendent in Tuesday's only statewide primary runoff.

Less than 2 percent of eligible Wayne County voters turned out Tuesday for the runoff. Those who did vote favored Stewart over Mrs. Atkinson for state schools superintendent. Stewart received 458 votes, or 60 percent, compared to Mrs. Atkinson's 300 votes, 40 percent.

For Mrs. Atkinson, a former teacher at Charlotte's Myers Park High School who joined the Department of Public Instruction in 1976, the victory was sweet after campaign staff spent the four weeks after the first primary contacting undecided voters.

With all precincts reporting unofficial results, Mrs. Atkinson, seeking to become the state's first female state superintendent, defeated Stewart 55 percent to 45 percent.

"About 80 percent of our teachers are women," said Mrs. Atkinson, adding that during her career "I really have looked to be a representative of women."

Ward decided not to seek a third term. Mrs. Atkinson now will face Republican Bill Fletcher of Cary in November.

"I believe Mr. Fletcher will talk about his business experience and how he has been responsible for getting results," Mrs. Atkinson said at her Raleigh home. "I will emphasize my 33 years in education and how I've been able to get results in education."

Fletcher, a Wake County school board member, didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

Stewart, the former director of agriculture education for the North Carolina public schools, said that despite the loss, he's still pleased with his campaign and wouldn't rule out a run at future office. Stewart was the leading vote-getter in the three-candidate July 20 primary.

In Wayne County, voting went smoothly, said Elections Director Gary Sims. "We had no problems other than boredom."

The low-profile superintendent race was not expected to generate much turnout and it didn't. Brogden Middle School (Precinct 27) had only six voters all day, while First African Baptist Church (#20) had nine.

Grantham Fire Department (#24) was the busiest polling place with 63 voters.

Light voting allowed the Board of Elections to tally the vote by 8 p.m., 30 minutes after polls closed.

At least the primary wasn't as expensive as once feared. Sims ordered only about 60 percent of the ballots that he potentially needed. Also, polling places were only staffed with three judges apiece; they usually have two to five assistants per polling place.

"We did the minimum of what was needed," Sims said Tuesday night. That saved the county about half of the projected $20,000 cost of the election.

Preparation is now under way for the Nov. 2 general elections. Anyone with questions or who wants to register should call 731-1411.

Other races

In other races, the 10th District race for Congress appeared headed for a recount as Patrick McHenry, a state representative from Gaston County, led Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman by just 128 votes with all precincts reporting unofficial results. Huffman would have to ask for the recount.

Given the 10th District's political bent, the winner is expected to be the heavy favorite to beat Democrat Anne Fischer of Morganton in November and succeed longtime U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger, who is retiring.

In legislative runoffs, nine-term Rep. Bobby Barbee, R-Stanly, lost to David Almond in the 67th House District GOP primary. With all precincts reporting, Almond had 65 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for Barbee.

Michael Wray defeated David Henderson, 52 percent to 48 percent, in the 27th District Democratic runoff covering three north-central counties. Wray faces no opposition in the general election.

Dale Folwell beat Debra Conrad-Shrader in the 74th District GOP runoff in Forsyth County by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, according to complete, unofficial results.

In the Senate, Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, defeated former Rep. Shelly Willingham in the 5th District Democratic runoff, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Doug Berger edged Darryl Moss in the 7th Senate District Democratic runoff, winning 52 percent to 48 percent, with all precincts reporting in four north-central counties.