Seven weeks ago, Republican hopefuls vied for their party’s nomination in the Sampson Clerk of Superior Court race. Now it’s happening again, but this time it is a two-horse race.
Following a dead-heat primary at the beginning of May, Republican Clerk of Court candidates Chris Fann and Chris Driver are engaged in a runoff, or second primary. Voting locations are open across the county throughout the day Tuesday (today) to come to a clear-cut conclusion.
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. So a runoff had to be held.
The second primary will work just as the first did, with all 23 county precincts open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today. The early voting period extended from June 7 to this past Saturday, June 23, at the Sampson County Board of Elections Office, with 726 people casting early ballots, according to election officials. Additionally, 31 absentee by mail ballots have been returned.
The runoff is open to all registered Republican voters, as well as all unaffiliated voters who did not vote a Democratic ballot in the May primary.
There are 38,101 total 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 voted Democrat in May, so they will be ineligible to vote in the runoff. The difference — 7,434 voters — are eligible.
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. A fraction of that turnout is expected in Tuesday’s 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).
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.
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.
Visit sampsonnc.com/departments/boe/precincts.php for a list of all Sampson County precincts.
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.