Local News

Legislative Report Recommends Atkinson For Top Education Post

Posted August 9, 2005

— The country's only undecided statewide race is just about over after a 10-member joint legislative committee recommended a winner Tuesday. The decision: Democrat June Atkinson should be the state's school superintendent.

The recommendation means the Democratically controlled Legislature will ultimately decide the long contested race and that June Atkinson will probably be taking over soon at the Department of Public Instruction.

"I think that people across North Carolina will be as happy as I am that this election will soon come to an end," Atkinson said after the hearing. "It's time we have a state superintendent elected by the people."

Polls showed Atkinson won the November election by more than 8,535 votes out of more than 3.3 million ballots cast. Fletcher appealed that 11,000 out-of-precinct votes were cast illegally. The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed, although analysis of the votes showed he would have lost anyway. Then, the legislature stepped in to determine the outcome.

"We're here today with a partisan body making a partisan decision," Fletcher said. "That's not the best of our American process."

The Republican made no apologies for appealing the case so far. He said he was standing up for principle and constitutional law. He recently filed to run for re-election to the Wake County School Board.

Despite the committee vote, Fletcher refused to concede. He did say, however, that he would likely give up if and when the entire General Assembly votes for Atkinson. At that point, he said, "Practically, it will be over."

The full General Assembly will now hold a joint session to consider the recommendation and pick the winner. Atkinson would appear to have the advantage because 92 of the 170 legislators are Democrats.

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