A runoff for the Republican nomination for Clerk of Superior Court is officially on following hopeful Chris Driver’s formal request, hand-delivered Wednesday morning to the Sampson County Board of Elections. He will face Chris Fann on June 26, with one-stop voting to be held in the weeks leading up to that second primary.
Fann and Driver were the top vote-getters on the Republican ticket in the May 8 primary, with Fann tallying 29.1 percent of the vote (1,001 votes) and Driver garnering 28.1 percent (967 votes). N.C. law awards the office to the top vote-getter as long as they get more than 30 percent of the total vote, a “substantial plurality” that was not achieved in this instance.
The second primary will work just as the first did, with all precincts open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on June 26, Board of Elections director Ashley Pate Tew said.
The early voting period will extend from June 7 to June 23. As always, the one-stop will be held during regular weekday hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday — at the Board of Elections Office, as well as from 10 a.m. to 1 pm. the final Saturday, June 23. Absentee by mail will be an option under the same guidelines as before, and will be mailed as soon as they are available. The last day to request the ballot by mail will be June 19 by 5 p.m.
Election officials are currently handling the logistics for the second primary, including corralling people to work the polls again. The primary election held on May 8 cost $22,426.14, including paying all election workers for election day and training, as well as for the rental fees associated with any buildings and rooms used as polling places. While not as many will be needed, due to less eligible voters, there are still many moving parts to the process.
“We have already started securing our workers for (June 26),” said Tew. “Typically 125-150 workers are utilized for primary and general elections. Due to the fact that the turnout will be less, because only those who are registered Republican or unaffiliated and did not choose a Democratic ballot in the primary are eligible to vote, we will not require quite as many workers. However, we are still required to have a minimum of four workers present, so we will have approximately 92 workers for the second primary.”
There are 38,101 registered voters in Sampson County, including 13,926 Republicans, 16,337 Democrats, 7,730 unaffiliated and 108 Libertarian. Only 21,360 will be eligible to vote in the second primary, to include all Republicans and all unaffiliated voters who did not chose a Democratic ballot. There were 296 unaffiliated voters who did vote Democrat, so the difference will be eligible in the runoff.
Just 6,718 votes were cast from the pool of registered voters in Sampson, a voter turnout of less than 18 percent.
Driver confirmed the day after last week’s election that he would be making the request for the second primary at the appropriate time. He initially said that would likely be after the May 18 canvass, however he was later informed that the deadline was noon Thursday to make the request.
“Obviously, I am going to do the runoff,” Driver said previously. “There are some things that have to happen first, but I’ve talked with Chris Fann about it and we both believe this is the best way to narrow it down a bit. The county deserves that.”
Both Driver and Fann said they spoke with each during the election and in the wake of the results about the crowded race and the potential runoff. Both shared mutual respect for each other and the electoral process.
It was a close contest all around, with no Republican Clerk candidate receiving less than 20 percent of the vote. Barbara Moore had 22.5 percent of the vote (774 votes) and current Clerk of Court Dwight S. Williams Jr., appointed to the post following the retirement of longtime Clerk Norman Wayne Naylor, had 20.3 percent (697 votes), according to the unofficial results.
“It goes to show that every vote counts, and I just encourage everyone to get back out there on June 26,” Fann said. “We know it will be a light turnout, but we want them to vote for who they think will do the best for the county.”
Fann carried the central and southern portions of the county, to include 10 precincts — Keener, Herring, Kitty Fork, Autryville, Roseboro, Salemburg, Lakewood, Clinton West, Clinton Southwest and Harrells. Salemburg, Lakewood and Clinton West were won by sizable margins. Driver carried five precincts, including the northwest part of the county. He scored victories in Mingo, Plainview and Clement, each by substantial margins, as well as Clinton Northeast and Clinton East.
Moore won four precincts, including Garland, Ingold, Rowan and Turkey, while Williams took four in Clinton Central, Giddensville, Westbrook and Newton Grove, running away with the last two.
Democrat Tammy Grady will meet the winner the Fann-Driver runoff in November. Grady carried 16 of the 23 precincts in beating out Brent Baggett and Jerry Bradshaw for that party’s nod in the Clerk of Court race, earning close to 57.6 percent of the vote (1,740 votes). Bradshaw and Baggett received 30.8 percent (932 votes) and 11.6 percent (350 votes), respectively.
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.