05/16/08 — Runoff in works for seat in Senate

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Runoff in works for seat in Senate

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 16, 2008 2:16 PM

More than 10 percentage points separated them after the May 6 primary, but because Don Davis fell just short of the necessary 40 percent to win outright, Kathy Taft has officially exercised her right to request a runoff on June 24 in the Democratic primary for the District 5 seat in the state Senate.

After the first round, which featured six candidates vying for the position, Davis, the mayor of Snow Hill, came out on top with 35.81 percent of the vote across Wayne, Pitt and Greene counties.

Kathy Taft of Greenville, a member of the state Board of Education, came in second with 24.13 percent.

But with a month to go before their head-to-head face-off, she's confident that she'll be able to make up the difference -- especially in Wayne County.

"I'm just going to have to work really hard," she said. "I'm not going to be doing a lot of television or radio, but I am going to be spending a lot of time in Wayne County and letting people get to know me better -- something that was hard to do when you had two candidates living in Wayne County running -- while keeping my base in Pitt.

"But I feel I have some good supporters in Wayne."

In the primary, two Goldsboro residents -- former Wayne Community College President Dr. Ed Wilson and Director of North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care Chuck Stone -- were

Now, however, she's hopeful that she'll be able to pick up their votes, as well as those cast for former state Sen. Tony Moore of Winterville and former state Rep. Charles Johnson of Greenville -- though none have endorsed either candidate.

"I'm going to have to work hard to pick up some of the votes that went to the other candidates," she said.

But she's not going to be the only one pushing for that support.

Davis also will be working to increase his numbers -- though, he noted that he doesn't have quite as much ground to make up as Ms. Taft.

"With six candidates in the race, we knew it would be hard to get to 40 percent," he said. "But when you look at our returns, with 36 percent of the vote with six candidates in the race, I think that sends a message."

And that message, he explained, is that their message is working.

"Our approach is not going to change. My strategy is to continue to share our message and reach out to voters in all three counties," Davis said.

He explained that rather than highlight specific differences between himself and Ms. Taft, he plans to focus on what he brings to the table -- his Air Force experience, his two terms as mayor of Snow Hill, his 10 years teaching experience and his leadership in the 1st Congressional District Democratic Party and in N.C. League of Municipalities.

"I think those things are important," he said. "When we look at backgrounds, I just think I'm the one who truly represents this district."

Among his focuses are issues like economic development, improving schools, building infrastructure like water and sewer, protecting Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and taking care of veterans and state employees.

Most of all, he wants to see more regional cooperation and development.

"We want to give a voice to all the people of the district, and that's why our campaign has appeal," he said. "That's the message. That's what we started with."

Ms. Taft also plans to focus on what worked for her during the first campaign -- primarily education, which she has called "the most important issue facing our society today."

Then, once schools are improved, she has continued, issues like economic development and health care will naturally begin falling into place.

She also said, though, that she's taking some of what she learned during the first campaign and applying it to this new race, especially on education and economic development issues where she found herself agreeing with Wilson, and on state employee and health care issues where she found herself agreeing with Stone.

"I believe we (herself, Wilson and Stone) share a lot of the same ideas and thoughts, so I hope that people who voted for them will give me a chance," she said.

But for her, the biggest factor is her more than 10 years in Raleigh working with members of the legislature.

"I think the biggest difference is my experience. I think that really counts," she said. "Another advantage I think I have is that I'm a woman. We need another woman in the Senate.

"And I think I have the best chance to keep the seat Democratic."

The runoff will be June 24. All eligible Democrats may vote, as well as unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary or who did not vote. Republicans and unaffiliated voters who voted in the Republican primary cannot vote in the runoff.