Local News

Control of Chambers Up For Grabs After Legislators Win

Posted November 5, 2002

— Several incumbents lost or trailed in General Assembly elections Tuesday, when GOP hopes of taking control of either chamber remained intact with many races remaining close.

Democrats entered the election with a 62-58 advantage in the House and 35-15 lead in the Senate.

New court-imposed district maps were expected to narrow the margin in the Senate and possibly cause a change in power in the House.

As of late Tuesday, unofficial returns showed Democrats winning 53 seats and Republicans 51 seats, with 16 races undecided. Sixty-one seats are needed for a majority.

In the Senate, Democrats had 22 seats, Republicans 20 seats and eight were undecided. Democrats would need 25 seats to retain control, since the lieutenant governor, the Senate president, is a Democrat. Republicans need 26 seats.

Rep. Marge Carpenter, R-Haywood, lost to Democrat Ray Rapp, while Rep. Alice Underhill, D-Craven, was 172 votes behind GOP challenger Michael Gorman with all precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns. Rapp defeated Carpenter 53 percent to 45 percent.

GOP Rep. Mia Morris of Cumberland County trailed Democratic opponent Margaret Dickson by 199 votes with all precincts reporting.

Three other House members - Reps. Jeff Barnhart, R-Cabarrus; Leslie Cox, D-Lee; Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell - all trailed with some precincts yet to be counted in each of their races.

A Democrat, Rep. David Redwine, was trailing slightly in his race against GOP challenger Bonner Stiller with all but one precinct reporting. Redwine, of Brunswick County, is a co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

A Senate Appropriations Committee co-chairman, Fountain Odom of Mecklenburg County, trailed Republican Robert Pittenger. With 72 percent of the precincts reporting, Pittenger had 54 percent of the vote to Odom's 44 percent, according to unofficial returns.

Unofficial winners included Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, and Senate Minority Leader Patrick Ballantine, R-New Hanover.

Among the House victors were Speaker Pro Tem Joe Hackney, D-Orange, and Majority Leader Phil Baddour, D-Wayne. House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, led in his district race.

House member Fern Shubert, who decided to run for a Senate seat, was defeated by Union County Sheriff Frank McGuirt by a 2-1 margin.

Reps. Gregg Thompson, R-Mitchell, and Michael Harrington, R-Gaston, were in tight races with Democrats for Senate seats.

Republicans sought to defeat two Senate Democrats: Allen Wellons of Johnston County, who was trailing Tuesday night, and Scott Thomas of Craven County, who led his race. Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, trailed Republican George Wilson with about two-thirds of the precincts reporting.

In the House, two longtime incumbents - Democrat Ronnie Smith and Republican Jean Preston - faced each other in District 13 in Carteret and Onslow counties.

Sen. Bob Carpenter, R-Macon, led Sen. Dan Robinson, D-Jackson, 53 percent to 47 percent, with 58 percent of the precincts reporting. The two western senators were drawn into the same district.

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