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Old Issue Divides Sides In Rocky Mount Mayoral Race

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — As voters cast their ballots in Tuesday's municipal elections, two challengers hoped to uproot the mayor of Rocky Mount for an office he has held for 30 years.

Voters said they wanted Fred Turnage to stay their mayor for another term, and he defeated Reuben Blackwell and Danny Colbert in their challenge to his office.

An issue older than Turnage's tenure as mayor apparently was a big issue in the race: racism.

Railroad tracks split more than the town. The tracks also split Rocky Mount into two counties, Edgecombe and Nash.

Something else divides the city, as well. Neither Turnage nor his challengers could ignore it in this election.

"There is still a tinge of racism, both black and white, in eastern North Carolina," Turnage said. "That is part of this race. I regret to say that, but that's true."

Said Blackwell: "In every arena of dealing in Rocky Mount, there is an underlying tone of racial issues."

Blackwell said inner-city areas in Edgecombe County get left out of projects that help Nash County grow.

Turnage, meanwhile, said he has tried to serve all the citizens of Rocky Mount during his 30 years in office, "not one particular segment of the community."

The issue could prove a challenge for Turnage in his next term.

"I have spent 30 years working to improve it," he said. "I'll spend the next four."

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