By the time election filing could officially begin at noon Monday, the Sampson County Board of Elections was already packed with county commissioner hopefuls, state incumbents and a bevy of family, friends and supporters in tow.
Once the dust cleared about an hour later, six people had thrown their respective hats in the ring leading up to the May 6 primary.
As expected, Republicans Danny Jackson and Clark Wooten filed for the county board’s District 1 seat, being vacated by longtime representative Jarvis McLamb. Sue Lee, also a Republican, filed for the District 3 seat from which Jefferson Strickland is stepping down and Democrat Eugene Pearsall announced his intention to run for the District 5 seat currently occupied by Albert Kirby.
Additionally, Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) is seeking his third term as senator for N.C.’s District 10 and Rep. Larry M. Bell (D-Sampson) is seeking his eighth term as District 21’s representative in the N.C. House of Representatives. Both incumbents made it official at the Board of Elections Monday, following the large caravan of county commissioner challengers.
Election officials noted the packed house. There have been similar occasions where the commencement of filing periods have seen a horde of candidates and supporters during the first hour of filing — it has been a while — but longtime Elections workers and Veterans Service officer Ann Knowles said the closer quarters of the current facility made it much more noticeable.
Pearsall, with Bell, Patty Cherry and Dee Bryant by his side, said he sought to bring more harmony to a divisive Sampson County Board of Commissioners as its new District 5 commissioner.
As the owner of Eugene’s Trucking, located on N.C. 403, Pearsall said he knows what it is like to operate a business, take it through tough times and see it expand and prosper. He said business, as well as education, are passions he wished to champion as part of the board.
“I want to make sure we’re exhausting all our efforts to get all the government money we can to help the local citizens and to see that we help the schools,” said Pearsall, who was born and raised in Duplin County, where he went to North Duplin High School and was the self-proclaimed “basketball king.”
More than that, Pearsall has excelled in business, growing his Eugene’s Trucking over its 24 years.
“I’ve struggled through hard economic times and I’ve made it successful. I want to do the same for the county,” said Pearsall, who stressed that bringing some bipartisan harmony was a good first step. “I think we should all work together for the people of the county and not in-fighting. That seems to be what we’re doing sometimes.”
Pearsall is married to wife Cheryl and they have three children, Jordan, Erica and Genna.
Danny Jackson and Wooten will be facing off in what is expected to be a hotly contested District 1 race. Both announced their intentions to run first thing Monday.
The Sampson County Republican Party’s nominee, Danny Jackson was flanked by many prominent local Republicans, including Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, current party chairman Curtis Barwick, past party chairman Dwight Williams, 2010’s District 1 challenger Hubert Hall and others.
Jackson retired after 32 years with Star Telephone and now has a second career, as a poultry farmer.
No stranger to the political arena, Jackson served previously as member of the Sampson County Republican Party executive committee and as the party’s vice chairman, along with serving on the 7th Congressional District Executive Committee. Jackson just concluded a short stint on the three-member Sampson County Board of Elections, a position he relinquished last week to run for the District 1 seat.
Jackson, who attended Mingo Elementary School, Midway High and Sampson Community College, has been married to Joyce Hudson Jackson for the past 43 years. They have two children, Greg Jackson and Tracy Bass, and four grandchildren. He also has a sister, Debra Harris, who is married to husband James.
On Monday, he filed the necessary paperwork seated next to wife Joyce, with grandsons William Bass and Dylan Jackson atop their laps. Jackson said he was looking forward to the chance to represent the county.
“I’m excited,” said Jackson. “I’m ready to work and ready to represent the people of Sampson County the best I can.”
Filing minutes after Jackson, Clark Wooten did the same.
Wooten, who has been endorsed by longtime commissioner McLamb, alluded to the well-known fact he would be involved in a Republican primary for District 1 in May. It did not take long for the campaigning and stump speeches to begin.
“This is my selection committee,” Wooten said, pointing to the people behind him. “That’s what I love about District 1. They’re intelligent thinkers and they can make their own decisions.”
“While we’re making selections,” said McLamb, seated next to Wooten, “this is my selection for commissioner of District 1.”
For decades, Wooten’s grandfather farmed land and ran a country store in the Spivey’s Corner area at Timothy crossroads. Wooten’s turfgrass production company Tri-State Turf Inc. found its origins as a one-man operation in that store nearly 30 years ago, and still operates at the site.
Wooten announced his intentions to seek the District 1 seat weeks ago in the Tri-State offices. A graduate of Hobbton High School and UNC-Wilmington, Wooten is married to wife Linda, They have two children, Houston and Celia.
Sue Lee, a product of Clinton City Schools, also filed for the upcoming election. She was surrounded by numerous family, friends and supporters, including current District 3 commissioner Jefferson Strickland.
“It’s overwhelming,” Lee said Monday of the support she has received.
A Sampson County native, Lee said she is up for the challenge and said her family, including husband Tart, is behind her “100 percent.” The couple, who have owned and operated Precision Tool & Stamping, Inc., in Clinton since April 1980, have two sons, Brandon and Justin, and two grandchildren.
“I’d love to see us all work together as a team to get this county rolling forward into the future, so we can pull out of this slump that we’re in because of the economy that has held us back and kept us stagnant,” said Lee. “I’d like to see growth. Stagnation is not good for anybody. We’ve had some excellent leaders and I think I can add to that list.”
Sen. Brent Jackson, the two-term senator representing District 10 (Sampson, Duplin and Johnston), is seeking a third.
He said he first ran because he felt agricultural and rural areas of North Carolina were being left behind. He has made it his mission to combat that.
“We have done a great deal to support our rural areas, but I feel there is more to do,” Jackson stated, pointing to the need to oversee the new Rural Economic Development Division. “It has always been my intention to make sure that agricultural and rural issues were voiced in Raleigh and I feel that I have had much success in doing just that.”
A lifelong Autryville resident and owner of Jackson Farming Company, Jackson said he would be “honored and humbled” to be given a third term.
“It’s been a rewarding experience,” said Jackson. “I’d like to continue to do what we’ve been doing and make sure that rural North Carolina is looked after. I will do everything in my power to proactively address the problems that my constituents face every day.”
A longtime local educator, Bell represents District 21 (Sampson, Duplin and Wayne) in the N.C. House and said he wants to bring his experience to Raleigh for an eighth term.
“I feel that my seven terms has given me the experience that I can work on both sides of the aisle, which I think is essential right now,” Bell commented. “I feel that experience will help us, even though we’re not in the majority right now.”
A longtime educator, school board member and retired schools superintendent, Bell also served as a Sampson County commissioner prior to his time in the N.C. General Assembly. All of that, he noted, has given him the knowledge it takes to serve the local citizens in Raleigh.
“I want to bring a common sense approach,” said Bell. “I think that’s needed.”
The filing period ends at noon Friday, Feb. 28. See The Sampson Independent, or visit clintonnc.com. for constant updates.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.