Local Politics

Burr wins easily; Democratic runoff needed

Posted May 4, 2010 9:13 p.m. EDT
Updated May 5, 2010 10:11 a.m. EDT

— U.S. Sen. Richard Burr breezed to victory in the Republican primary Tuesday, while North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham will meet again next month in a runoff on the Democratic side.

Burr grabbed 80 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

"I think North Carolinians are scared to death with the direction of the country, but they're also concerned about the economy and their jobs," Burr said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where he spent election night.

Burr said he wants to be a part of crafting solutions to national problems in a second term, including addressing federal debt.

Marshall had 36 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary with 98 percent of precincts reporting. She needed at least 40 percent to avoid a June runoff.

"I think not having a runoff is in the Democratic Party's long-range best interests," Marshall said. "(We should be) focusing on the target, which is getting this (Senate) seat for the Democratic Party. So, continuing to fight among ourselves does not get us to the point where we need to be."

Cunningham was second in the six-person race with 27 percent, followed by Durham lawyer Ken Lewis at 17 percent. The other three candidates finished in single digits.

Cunningham immediately called for a runoff election with Marshall. That vote will be held on June 22.

"You should all be commended, and I'm going to need you again from now until June 22 and from June 22 on into November," Cunningham told cheering supporters in his hometown of Lexington. "We, here in North Carolina are one step closer to replacing Richard Burr in the United States Senate."

Incumbents rule the day

Five state House members lost to challengers, but local contests went to the incumbents.

Incumbent congressmen G.K. Butterfield, Walter Jones, Howard Coble and Larry Kissell also were easy winners in their primaries. Renee Ellmers won the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District and will face Congressman Bob Etheridge in November, while William Lawson will face Congressman David Price after winning the GOP primary in the 4th Congressional District.

Primary races for area seats in the state House and state Senate also went to incumbents.

The incumbents who were unseated were Democratic Reps. Ronnie Sutton of Robeson County, Nick Mackey of Mecklenburg County, Bruce Goforth of Buncombe County and Earl Jones of Guilford County and Republican Rep. Pearl Burris Floyd of Gaston County.

Sutton, a nine-term House member and Lumberton lawyer, lost to Charles Graham, the former special education director in the Robeson County Schools. Sutton, a chairman of a House judiciary committee, received 49 percent of the vote, trailing Graham's 51 percent.

Mackey, a first-term lawmaker, lost to Rodney Moore, who snared 62 percent of the vote after Mackey's law license was suspended for failure to disclose late tax filings and troubles while a police officer on his Bar exam application.

Goforth, a four-term House member, lost handily to former congressional candidate Patsy Keever in a race whose key issue had been how to regulate development on steep mountain slopes. Marcus Brandon beat Jones, who as been a strong supporter for backing stem-cell research in North Carolina, making video poker legal again and permitting marijuana use for medical purposes.

Real estate agent Kelly Hastings, who is white, defeated Burris Floyd, the Legislature's lone black Republican, by 6-percent margin.

One upset in sheriff races

Fourteen area sheriffs faced primary challengers, and only one went down to defeat.

Calvin Woodard, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation and a former Wilson County deputy, knocked off longtime Wilson County Sheriff Wayne Gay.

Sheriffs who fended off primary challenges included Worth Hill in Durham County, Lindy Pendergrass in Orange County, Earl "Moose" Butler in Cumberland County, James Knight in Edgecombe County, Pat Green in Franklin County, Hubert Peterkin in Hoke County and Peter White in Vance County.

Light turnout

Officials with the State Board of Elections said voter turnout was light across the state, with about 13 percent of registered voters casting ballots. In the last mid-term election in 2006, voter turnout in the primary was 12 percent.

Wake County elections officials said 11.5 percent of local voters cast ballots.

About 170,000 voters cast ballots in early voting statewide.