At long last, the local Republican Party has its nomination for Sampson County Clerk of Court.
Seven weeks after a dead-heat primary, Clerk candidates Chris Fann and Chris Driver contended in a runoff, or second primary. And this time, with a race of four whittled down to two, a conclusion was able to be reached in what still proved to be a relatively tight race, with Fann getting the party nod. He will face Democrat Tammy Grady in November.
Fann garnered 1,241 votes (54.3 percent) to Driver’s 1,044 (45.7 percent) on Tuesday, according to the unofficial second primary results from the Sampson County Board of Elections. There was a voter turnout of approximately 10.6 percent, with 2,285 votes cast out of a potential 21,491, according to the unofficial results.
The runoff was open to all registered Republican voters, as well as all unaffiliated voters who did not vote a Democratic ballot in the May 8 primary. Just 6,718 votes were cast from the pool of 38,101 total registered voters in Sampson in the May 8 primary, a voter turnout of less than 18 percent.
Fann and Driver were the top vote-getters on the Republican ticket in that first 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.
On Wednesday, Fann thanked his supporters and extended gratitude to his opponent for a hard-fought campaign.
“I would like to thank my family, friends and supporters throughout Sampson County for this entire campaign,” he stated. “This was obviously a close election, and we are so grateful to have earned the support of so many. Thank you to Chris Driver — you ran a great campaign, and I wish you the best of luck in the future. Now it is on to November where we need to work even harder.”
The second primary worked just as the first did, with all 23 county precincts open for 13 hours Tuesday, closing at 7:30 p.m. The early voting period extended from June 7 to this past Saturday, June 23, at the Sampson County Board of Elections Office.
Right when polls closed Tuesday night, the early returns came in, revealing a clear Fann lead. He amassed 457 votes to Driver’s 303 votes after early votes and absentee mail ballots counted, good for a 60-40 split. He led the rest of the way, as three precincts reported, then 11, then 20 and, after about an hour and a half, 22 of 23 precincts.
The final precinct, Clinton Central, didn’t come in until 9:15 p.m., but ultimately showed that not a single voter cast a ballot at the Clinton City Hall location, so the numbers stayed as is.
While that precinct was considered a draw, Fann carried 15 of the remaining 22 precincts.
Fann repeated victories in the 10 precincts he won in May, to include Clinton Southwest, Clinton West, Keener, Kitty Fork, Herring, Lakewood, Roseboro, Salemburg and Harrells, and added Rowan, Newton Grove, Giddensville, Ingold and Garland to his tally this time around.
Driver took seven precincts on Tuesday, including again scoring victories in Clinton East, Clinton Northeast, Plain View, Clement and Mingo, the same five precincts he carried in May’s four-person race that included Barbara Moore and current Clerk of Court Dwight S. Williams Jr., appointed following the retirement of Norman Wayne Naylor. Driver added Turkey and Westbrook to his total this time around.
Fann will face Grady on Nov. 6. She carried 16 of the 23 precincts in beating out Brent Baggett and Jerry Bradshaw for the local Democratic Party’s nod, earning close to 58 percent of the vote.
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.