05/07/08 — Your Votes - Davis takes down Wilson to get runoff slot

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Your Votes - Davis takes down Wilson to get runoff slot

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 7, 2008 2:02 PM

In what seemed to be shaping up to be the surprise upset of the evening, Snow Hill Mayor Don Davis beat all comers in the state Senate District 5 Democratic race, but not by enough to secure the nomination Tuesday.

Instead, with only 35.78 percent of the vote going his way, he will likely be facing state Board of Education member Kathy Taft of Greenville (24.06 percent) in a runoff on June 24 for the right to face state Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, in November.

Wayne County's two candidates, Ed Wilson -- who was endorsed by retiring state Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne -- and Chuck Stone, came in third and fifth, with 13.59 percent and 8.76 percent of the vote respectively.

Perhaps the most shocking turn of the evening, though, was that neither was able to carry Wayne County, with Wilson only gaining 24.62 percent of the vote, to Davis' 39.76 percent.

Stone was third in the county with 13.85 percent, while Taft came in fourth at 11.74 percent.

Both Davis and Taft, attributed their strong showings to the resonance their message carried with voters -- especially in their home counties, which they both won hands-down.

"I would have liked to have finished it all tonight," Ms. Taft said. "But I will call for a runoff.

"I think I have a very good shot at it."

Davis also wished that he had been able to reach the 40 percent mark needed to avoid a second primary, but he said that he, too, is confident in his ability to win in June.

"We had a strong grassroots effort in all three counties," he said. "I think our message is resonating with people. We're a campaign about the people, and I truly appreciate every vote that we earned."

The others in the race also said they were appreciative of the support they received -- and at least one indicated that he would likely be back in 2010 to challenge for the seat again.

"I'm very pleased. Six people in a race at once is unusual and we finished in the top four. It's good to be back," said Tony Moore, a former state senator from Winterville, who added that he plans to run again in two years.

Other challengers weren't so sure about a second attempt, but said they felt their campaigns had served a purpose.

"I was glad to take part in the process. I think we did everything we could do. At least the voters had a choice," Stone, the director of North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care, said, adding that he hoped he was able to bring more attention state employees and to the need for an improved health care system.

"Certainly the other candidates picked up on those," he said. "I just hope they follow through on them."

Also hoping that the remaining candidates would pick up on his campaign themes of agriculture and economic development was former state Rep. Charles Johnson of Greenville.

"I'm disappointed in the outcome, but it was a good race," he said. "I hope we can pull together to make this district an even stronger district than it has been. I think it's going to be a matter of cooperation and helping each other."

But none of the candidates were eager to immediately endorse either Taft or Davis -- though Taft is confident that most of the party will fall in line behind her.

"I've got a huge base in Pitt County and I think a lot of the Democrats in Wayne County will support me now," she said. "I think they're looking for someone with experience and someone who will be capable of representing the entire district."

Davis, though, believes his message of change will ultimately carry the day.

"Because we took a message to the residents -- a message of hope and a message that we are going to represent the interests of everyone in the district, of all walks of life -- they really connected to that," he said.

The official request for a runoff must be made by Taft, after the 11 a.m. May 13th canvass is complete, but before noon on May 15. At that time, both candidates said they will likely begin campaigning in earnest again.

The rest of the numbers: Moore finished the night with 12.32 percent of the vote (6.66 percent in Wayne County), while Johnson finished with 5.5 percent (3.38 percent in Wayne County). Wilson could not be reached for comment once the vote was no longer in doubt.