Local News

Opinions Differ On Decision To Hold New Election In State Ag Race

Posted December 30, 2004 5:00 a.m. EST

— With a new election ordered to determine who will be the next state agriculture commissioner, each candidate must start over in their quest for votes. But who holds the edge?

The commissioner of agriculture race is brewing. Voters like Jeff Vojta have a bitter taste in their mouth. The registered Republican considers himself a swing voter. His coffee-brewing company is regulated by the ag department.

"Let's get on with serving the citizens of the state and not dragging this out forever," he said.

Republican Steve Troxler leads Democratic incumbent Britt Cobb by more than 2,200 votes. However, a voting malfunction in Carteret County caused the loss of more than 4,400 votes. After a number of legal issues, the state Board of Elections decided to hold a new, statewide election.

Troxler plans to appeal the board's decision, but if Democratic incumbent Britt Cobb succeeds in his quest for a new vote, who would have the edge? Democratic consultant Brad Crone said in this race, you have to throw conventional wisdom out.

"I don't think either candidate will have an advantage, simply because the race has been so polarized and so energized," he said.

Bill Peaslee, of the state Republican party, does not agree with Crone's assessment. He believes Cobb supporters may vote differently this time because of the cost taxpayers will fork out for a new election.

"Everybody knows that Steve Troxler won this election," he said. "I don't think the people of North Carolina like a sore loser. I don't think they want someone who cost the state $3.5 million and disenfranchises voters simply so he can hang on to his job."

According to state law, until the race is resolved, Cobb remains the state agriculture commissioner.

Some political onlookers believe the race could be tied up in the courts for so long, it may be added to the municipal elections in November, which could save taxpayers $3.5 million. Others believe the case will be fast-tracked through the courts, so there will be a spring election.