02/04/05 — Cobb concedes defeat

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Cobb concedes defeat

By Wire
Published in News on February 4, 2005 2:05 PM

RALEIGH -- Republican Steve Troxler was certified as the winner of the state's long-unsettled agriculture commissioner election today after Democratic incumbent Britt Cobb conceded defeat.

"It has become clear that one person can help the state avoid the terrible precedent of settling elections by affidavit, and that person is me," Cobb said in a prepared statement read to the State Board of Elections by Cobb's attorney, John Wallace.

Cobb did not attend the meeting of the state board.

Troxler led Cobb by 2,287 votes out of more than 3 million cast in the Nov. 2 election. But a machine error caused more than 4,400 votes to be lost in Carteret County, leaving the outcome of the election in doubt for months.

Troxler's campaign had submitted about 1,400 affidavits from Carteret County voters who said their votes for the Republican were lost. Troxler's campaign said those affidavits would prove that Cobb could not have overcome Troxler based on the lost votes.

"I look forward to welcoming Mr. Troxler to the department and turning over the office of commissioner to him," Cobb said in his statement.

The board's vote to certify Troxler the winner brought a standing ovation from Troxler supporters who gathered at the board's Raleigh offices for the meeting.

Troxler said he received a call from Cobb immediately after the board's certification, and said he thanks Cobb for ending the race in a dignified manner.

"It's such a great relief for this to be over with," Troxler said.

Troxler said he did not know when he would take office or whether Cobb, a career department employee who was appointed to succeed disgraced former commissioner Meg Scott Phipps after she resigned in 2003, would remain at the agency.

The elections board had made two attempts to order new elections that would have resolved the close vote and the lost ballots. On Nov. 30, the board ordered a new election only in Carteret, but a judge threw that out as unlawful.

On Dec. 29, the board voted 3-2 to hold a new statewide election for commissioner. That order was subsequently thrown out after a judge ruled that four votes were needed to call a new election.

Wake County Superior Court Judge James Spencer ordered the board to come up with a new solution. But Cobb opened today's meeting of the board -- its first since Spencer's ruling -- by conceding.

In the statement, Cobb said that if he did not concede the board could be forced to decide the election based on the affidavits that Troxler's supporters collected after the election. To do so, he said, would "invite chaos in every close future election in our state."