05/08/08 — Duplin voters pick their winners

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Duplin voters pick their winners

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 8, 2008 2:02 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Facing a four-way race to replace retiring District 1 Duplin County Commissioner L.S. Guy, Frances Parks of Calypso just edged Jimmy Dixon of Mount Olive by 43 votes Tuesday, but it wasn't enough to capture the Democratic nomination.

Mrs. Parks received 767 votes to Dixon's 724, followed by Snodie Wilson with 291 votes and Winston Jennings with 149. Her total, though, only put her at 39.72 percent, followed by Dixon at 37.49 percent.

To win outright, she needed a simple plurality of more than 40 percent of the total.

Dixon now has the opportunity to call for a runoff election on June 24, but he must do so between the 11 a.m. canvass on May 13 and noon on May 15.

Since there is no Republican opposition in November, the winner, in effect, will win the seat.

Since a runoff election is considered a continuation of the first election, it is open to all eligible Democatic and unaffiliated voters in the district, Duplin County Board of Elections Director Suzanne Southerland said.

Ms. Southerland said that means unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary, or who did not vote at all, would be allowed to vote in a runoff.

However, unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in the Rep-ublican primary will not be eligible to vote.

Despite repeated phone calls, Dixon could not be reached for comment prior to presstime Thursday morning.

Mrs. Parks said she thought the election went "superb".

When asked what was next for her campaign, she said, "What happens next, I have no control over." She was referring to whatever Dixon decides about calling a runoff.

Mrs. Parks said she had been surprised by the finish order in Kenansville where she had expected Wilson to finish first because he is so well-known in that area. Wilson finished second behind Dixon and Ms. Parks was third.

In the race for the District 6 Democratic nomination, inc-umbent Commissioner Reg-inald Wells captured 75 percent of the votes with 1,033, while his challenger, Jessie Hand Ladson, received 340 votes. There is no Republican challenger on the November ballot.

In the race for the Duplin Board of Education District 1 seat, Democratic incumbent Willie Gillespie received 851 votes to Ronnie Bostic's 682 and Georgette Ward's 152 votes. Gillespie will face Rep-ublican Kraig Westerbeek in November.

In District 5, school board Democratic incumbent Reg-inald Kenan beat Helen Dobson, 1,001 to 735.

And in District 6, school board Democratic incumbent Hubert Bowden defeated his challenger, as he received 75 percent of the vote, finishing with 823 votes to challenger Marzella Morrisey's 274.

Neither Kenan nor Bowden face any opposition in November.

The election featured high turnout across the county, with 10,679 voters, or 39.25 percent, of the registered voters casting ballots, Mrs. Southerland said.

Turnout was highest in the Faison and Calypso precincts, where more than 40 percent of the voters cast ballots.

Also decided Tuesday was a quarter-cent sales tax referendum, which voters shot down with 5,849 voters saying "no", and 4,064 saying "yes". The revenue, which had been projected to reach more than $800,000 annually, would have gone toward public school and community college costs.

Commissioner L.S. Guy who had supported the increase, said he was disappointed with the vote. Guy said that he did not think the Duplin County opposition had been as well-organized as its counterpart in Wayne County, where 82 percent of the persons who voted said "no" to the proposal.

"I just think that people didn't really understand what the money would be used for (in Duplin County)," Guy said.

Guy said it would be premature to say whether commissioners would put the issue on the November ballot.

"I would be supportive of that," he said. "We need that revenue stream in Duplin County for schools."

Commissioner Cary Turner said he had figured the vote could have gone either way.

Turner said he knew some community leaders in his district who were in favor of the increase, but would not support it because of concerns about the leadership of the Duplin County Board of Education.

"People right now are not confident in the board of education and the way it is spending money," Turner said.

He said people in his district were concerned about any potential school board plans that would consolidate some schools in the district.

Turner said board of education members "should have come clean" about their plans for the schools.

On the national scene, Duplin voters gave Hillary Clinton a slight edge over Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primary, 4,377 to 4,190.

They also helped Kay Hagan to the Democratic nomination for Republican Elizabeth Dole's U.S. Senate seat -- 5,059 to Marcus Williams' 924 votes.

And in the two primaries for U.S. Congress District 3, they boosted Democrat Craig Weber over Marshall Adame, 1,149 to 404, and incumbent Republican Walter Jones over Joe McLaughlin 447 to 169.