05/14/08 — Dixon calls for runoff in Duplin race

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Dixon calls for runoff in Duplin race

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 14, 2008 2:00 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Jimmy Dixon of Mount Olive has called for a runoff election against Frances Parks of Calypso for the Democratic nomination for the District I seat on the Duplin County Board of Commissioners left open by Commissioner L.S. Guy of Faison who did not seek re-election.

Dixon made his request Tuesday morning as the Duplin County Board of Elections canvassed votes from last week's primary.

The runoff will be Tuesday, June 24, and will be the only local race on the ballot. However, there is a chance there could a state race as well. Thursday at noon is the deadline for candidates to request a runoff.

All eligible Democrats may vote in the runoff as well as unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary or who did not vote. Unaffiliated voters who voted in the Republican primary cannot vote in the runoff.

Mrs. Park picked up eight more votes during the canvass to increase her total from 767 to 775 votes, while Dixon added four to go from 724 to 728 votes. However, Mrs. Parks still fell just short of the 40 percent plurality she needed to win the nomination outright.

There is no GOP opposition in the November election. So barring a successful write-in campaign, whomever wins the runoff will capture the seat.

Duplin County Board of Elections Director Suzanne Southerland said that the county's 104 provisional ballots had not "really made an impact" on the election results.

Dixon said he had decided not to wait until the Thursday deadline to ask for the runoff as "a courtesy" to the Board of Elections since it already was in session. Asking on Tuesday meant that the board would not have to reconvene to hear his request.

"I have publicly stated that I feel like my particular areas of experience, in my opinion, qualify me to serve on the board of commissioners better than Ms. Parks' circumstances qualify her," Dixon said. "This is not a board of education race. When it comes to education, she would be a better-qualified candidate than me."

Dixon said the next commissioner will take part in spending more than $96 million in property tax money over the next four years -- roughly $24 million per year. He noted that the county's total budget is "much larger" than $24 million annually.

"That's serious business," he said. "I have developed what I consider a successful farming business over the past 20-25 years by developing and sticking to very cost-effective budgets."

Dixon said he thinks most of the campaigning has been done. He said that Mrs. Parks has "done a good job" informing her people and that he had done so as well.

"It is a matter of us continuing to get our message in front of the people and hope for the best," he said.

Dixon said the dynamics of the county have changed.

He said commissioners have before them a budget that would require a 22-to-28-cent increase in the tax rate to fund.

Dixon said the county's draft budget is $6 million out of balance and could increase to $8 million if a pay plan and job classification study is adopted by commissioners.

"It is a little disconcerting to see it so far out of balance," Dixon said.

Serious decisions have to be made over the next few weeks, he said.

"That has been basically my position for years -- that we need to do a better job of prioritizing how we spend our money," he said. "We can't burden taxpayers with everything that appears on the radar screen."

Mrs. Parks, a retired educator, said she was "absolutely not surprised" that Dixon had sought the runoff.

"I am looking forward to it," she said. "I just hope the voters will look deep at both candidates and what each has to say and to remember there are six commissioners and not just one.

"Look for Frances Parks to be the same as she was before the runoff."

Mrs. Parks said she would run an "honest, clean and truthful campaign."