05/10/06 — LaRoque will challenge primary vote

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LaRoque will challenge primary vote

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 10, 2006 1:51 PM

Willie Ray Starling won the Republican nomination for the North Carolina House of Representatives District 10 seat by 11 votes following Tuesday's canvass, but incumbent Rep. Stephen LaRoque said he has filed for a recount with the state Board of Elections and plans to file a protest of the election by Thursday.

"I'm looking for a new election," LaRoque said Tuesday.

LaRoque said he will file the protest on the grounds of voting irregularities in his home county of Lenoir. The district includes all of Greene and parts of Lenoir and Wayne, but most of the voters live in Lenoir.

"Unaffiliated voters were not given the opportunity to vote for me. The majority of voters in the 10th House voted for me. I have no doubt about that in my mind based on the phone calls I've received, but they weren't given a ballot," LaRoque said.

Both Democratic and Republican party officials permit unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in their primaries, but voters must choose one or he other. Or they can vote a straight unaffiliated ticket. In Lenoir County, that meant voting only for or against a school bond referendum and for state judicial candidates, who are non-partisan.

Wayne County Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said voters registered as unaffiliated are given the opportunity at the polls to choose which ballot they want to use.

"When you go to vote, it's already been predetermined what contests that person is eligible for," Sims said.

The final tallies from the canvasses in each county varied slightly from last week's primary. In Wayne County, Starling won his home county 277-57, with LaRoque gaining two votes. In LaRoque's home county of Lenoir, Starling gained six votes, but still lost the county 733-500.

The official results from Greene County had Starling with 136 votes compared to LaRoque's 112. The entire district's total favored Starling 913-902.

LaRoque said he filed for a recount with the state Board of Elections on Tuesday afternoon.

State law says that a candidate has the right to order a recount if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the prevailing candidate is not more than one percent of the total votes cast in that race.

Starling said he was not surprised that LaRoque filed for a recount.

"I felt sure that he was going to call a recount. All they do is recount the ballots, so it's going to come out the same. Then, he'll file a protest or at least that's what I expect," he said.

Starling added that this won't slow down his campaigning.

"I'm going to keep on going. I know I haven't quit. The last time we faced each other, I just kept on visiting with the folks and that's what I plan to keep doing," he said.