11/08/06 — Months of controversy end in Braxton victory in Dist. 10

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Months of controversy end in Braxton victory in Dist. 10

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 8, 2006 1:45 PM

KINSTON -- Republican state House candidate Willie Ray Starling could not come up with enough votes to win the District 10 seat Tuesday, falling to Lenoir County Democrat Van Braxton by more than 1,300 votes.

Most of the district is in Lenoir County, with only four precincts in Wayne. Starling, who had knocked off incumbent Stephen LaRoque, carried three of the four, and also won in five Lenoir precincts.

But Braxton's showing in key Lenoir precincts, especially the larger precincts in Kinston, carried him to victory.

Braxton, a Kinston businessman, has served on the Kinston City Council for more than a decade.

He finished with 7,663 overall votes to Starling's 6,341, taking nearly 55 percent of the vote.

"I think this race was more about the geography than the issues," Braxton said, noting his family's Greene County roots and the fact that he lives in Lenoir, where three of four District 10 voters live.

Braxton carried Kinston 4, Kinston 5, Contentnea and Moseley Hall precincts by wide margins. He also won in eight of the other 17 Lenoir precincts to take the total Lenoir vote 4,565 to 3,487.

In Lenoir, Starling carried Falling Creek, Neuse, both Pink Hill precincts, and also won in Trent 2.

In Greene County, Braxton defeated Starling in all 10 precincts, with his largest victories coming in the Snow Hill, Bull Head and Walstonburg precincts. Braxton carried Greene by a 2,325 to 1,279 margin.

In Wayne, Starling finished with 1,575 votes to Braxton's 773.

Braxton said he had hoped to do better in the four Wayne precincts: Spring Creek, New Hope Friends Church, Dudley Fire Station and Indian Springs Fire Station.

"I am a little disappointed in what happened in Wayne," he said.

Lenoir County election officials were doubly careful in tallying the results.

During the May primary, the state Board of Elections determined that some Lenoir County voters were not given the proper ballot. Also, the county experienced some irregularities with its new voting machines during the primary. Those irregularities warranted another primary between LaRoque and Starling in September, the state board ruled. Starling, who had won in May by 11 votes, won again in September by a wider margin.

To limit any possible mistakes in the general election, the Lenoir Board of Elections required each precinct to hand-deliver all results once the polls closed.

Lenoir County Board of Elections Chairman Bobby Waller also said the posting of elections numbers was slowed by the amount of voters who were still waiting in line after the polls closed at 7:30 p.m.

It was Starling's second attempt to win a seat in the state House. He lost to LaRoque two years ago in the Republican primary.

Braxton said that when he goes to Raleigh, he will work to increase economic development and improve education in the district.

"I feel like District 10 gets the short end of the stick. I want to make sure we work to get our fair share from Raleigh," Braxton said.