05/12/08 — John Kerr: No concern for Wayne in District 5

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John Kerr: No concern for Wayne in District 5

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 12, 2008 1:47 PM

As the results began coming in Tuesday night, the disappointment was easy to see on former Wayne Community College President Dr. Ed Wilson's face as he saw that not only was he losing in both Pitt and Greene counties, but that he was being largely out-paced in Wayne as well.

"It is disappointing," he said. "Not just for me but for the people who have been supporting me."

But, said retiring state Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne, even though he endorsed Wilson and thinks he would have been the best candidate for the job, he is confident that either Snow Hill Mayor Don Davis or state Board of Education member Kathy Taft of Greenville -- who will likely face off in a second primary on June 24 -- will represent Wayne County well.

Still, he also firmly believes that Wayne County Democrats made a mistake, missing out on the opportunity to maintain a 30-year hold on a seat that dates back to Henson Barnes.

"I think we made a bad mistake. Ed's a wonderful guy and it's going to be a loss to the legislature I think," Kerr said.

He was most disappointed for Wilson, though.

"I think he ran a good race. We knew it was going to be tough. I didn't think anybody would win up-front. We always thought the mayor would be in the top one or two, but we hoped Ed would be, too," he said.

The problem, though, was that not only was Wilson beat in Pitt and Greene counties, but also in Wayne, where he especially struggled in many precincts where black Democrats and unaffiliated voters outnumbered whites -- often losing by triple-digit margins.

"Our campaign has worked hard to invite people from across the district into our campaign. We're a campaign of diversity," Davis said, declining to speculate what else other than his message of hope and change might have appealed to voters. "We've made this campaign about the people and we're going to continue to reach out to whoever wants to be join this campaign."

And overall in Wayne County, Wilson lost to Davis, 39.76 percent to 24.62 percent (4,912 votes to 3,042).

"I think it was a combination of things -- Barack Obama being on the ticket, but also Mr. Davis worked very hard, ran a good campaign and got out a lot of voters," Wilson said. "I expected a higher turnout in general, and I think that probably impacted negatively on my campaign. But I compliment Davis on getting out his supporters.

"I tried to run a good campaign, and I think I did pretty much everything I could. This was the first time I'd done anything like this so I didn't really know what to expect, but I don't have any regrets."

Kerr also attributed Wilson's loss, at least in part, to Davis' early start and Taft's organization and name-recognition.

"Their names have been out there and I think Ed just didn't have the time to complete his work. There were a lot of people pushing (Davis) and backing him. He's been out there for a couple of months now, and he's worked hard," Kerr said. "And (Ms. Taft) has got a lot of friends and has been active in the party and in Raleigh.

"She brings a lot to the table and the mayor brings a lot to the table. I believe they'd both be good representatives."

But most significantly, Kerr believes that had Wilson had the same kind of backing in Wayne that Davis had in Greene (62.11 percent) and Taft had in Pitt (42.21 percent, though Davis finished second with 22.35 percent), he might have stood a better chance of placing in the top two.

"It's not the end of the world, but I think Wayne County needs to take a look at itself," Kerr said. "Maybe the people of Wayne County will wake up and realize they need to get behind good people to have good representation in Raleigh."

But again, he emphasized that he thinks either candidate will ultimately look out for Wayne County's best interests -- much like he spent his 16 years in the Senate working for whatever counties might have been included in the district.

"I would hope that whoever finally ends up with it, that they would do as I have done," he said. "I know both of them and I think they'll work with our county."