Early voting is now underway in the Republican runoff for the Sampson Clerk of Superior Court nomination, expected to offer a conclusive candidate following a dead-heat primary last month.
That runoff, also known as a second primary, features Republican Clerk candidates Chris Fann and Chris Driver. While the primary is set for Tuesday, June 26, one-stop voting will be held in the weeks leading up to that date. That early voting period kicks off today (Thursday).
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 case.
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 noted.
The early voting period will extend from Thursday, June 7, to Saturday, June 23. As usual, 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.
“It is open to all registered Republican voters and all unaffiliated voters who did not vote a Democratic ballot in the May primary,” Tew remarked.
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 last month. There were 296 unaffiliated voters who did vote Democrat in May.
Just 6,718 votes were cast from the pool of registered voters in Sampson in the May 8 primary, a voter turnout of less than 18 percent.
Typically 125-150 workers are utilized for primary and general elections. Due to the fact that the turnout will be less on June 26, because only those who are registered Republican or unaffiliated and did not choose a Democratic ballot in the primary are eligible to vote, not as many workers are needed at the polls. However, a minimum of four workers are required at each polling location, so approximately 92 workers will man the locations across the county.
Both Driver and Fann said they spoke with each during the first primary and in the wake of the results about the crowded race and the potential runoff. They shared mutual respect for each other and the electoral process.
“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,” Driver said the day after the May 8 primary. He made the formal runoff request the following week. “We thought it might come down to this. We both said if the shoe was on the other foot, we would still be for (having the runoff).”
It was a close contest all around in the May primary, 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).
“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.”
The first time around, 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.
Fann is on the Sampson Community College Board of Trustees and has also served on boards for Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation, Sampson Agri-Exposition Center and Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce. He is a charter member of Clinton-Sampson Rotary Club, involved since its inception in 1993. Fann was general manager, vice president and co-owner of Clinton Toyota for a decade, from 1980-90, until becoming general manager for Go Toyota from August 1990 until its sale to Deacon Jones in October 2016. He has been sales manager for Deacon Jones Toyota since then.
Fann and wife Kim have two daughters, Casi Freeman and Savannah Anders, and four grandchildren.
Driver served as deputy clerk in the estates/special proceedings division in the Clerk’s office for four years until June 2017 and currently serves in a similar capacity for Warrick, Bradshaw and Lockamy, P.A. Driver received the Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Service in recognition of his efforts to the Sampson County Diaper Bank and is involved with various committees, including Downtown Dash, Republican Executive Committee, Young Republicans, Sampson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals.
Driver and wife Allison have two daughters, Taylor and Spencer.
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 58 percent of the vote.