Johnston County voters elect incumbents

pseligson@newsobserver.comMay 9, 2014 

Johnston County voters sided with incumbents in Tuesday’s primaries, but for some candidates, the tally was too close for comfort. About 15,000 of the county’s 110,00 registered voters cast ballots, a turnout of 14 percent.

County Commissioner

In District 5, incumbent Cookie Pope won a close race to keep her seat on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners.

Pope, a Smithfield legal assistant and Cleveland community resident, took 52.51 percent of the vote, beating challenger Patrick Harris, the Smithfield fire chief, who finished with 47.49 percent. Pope is in her 20th year on the board. She faces no opposition in November.

“I am pleased that the voters of this county still have placed their confidence and trust in my abilities to govern and to lead,” Pope said. She attributed the close margin to a good campaign by Harris.

This was Harris’ first bid for elected office. He said he was happy with the race he ran.

“It was a great process,” Harris said. “That’s the first time I had ever run for anything, and I learned a lot. I truly enjoyed it and met a lot of great people and saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while.”

At this point, Harris said, he’s not sure if he’ll run again in four years. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said.

In District 3, Chad Stewart, a Four Oaks business owner, defeated insurance agent Keith Brinson, taking 57.48 percent of the vote. Brinson, in his first bid for public office, finished with 42.52 percent.

Stewart was appointed to the county board more than a year ago after the death of his father, longtime Commissioner Wade Stewart. “It’s a pleasure to know that you are elected by the people of Johnston County,” he said. “I was very excited with my appointment, the confidence that existing county commissioners had in me to do that job and to fill out my father’s term. But to actually have the vote of the people is a very, very wonderful feeling.”

Like Pope, Stewart has no November opponent.

Clerk of court

Michelle Ball defeated David Ford and Keith Branch in the Republican Party primary for Johnston County Clerk of Superior Court.

Ball, a Smithfield paralegal, took 51.03 percent of the vote. Ford, a Clayton attorney, finished with 26.25 percent, while Branch, a Smithfield insurance agent and member of the county’s school board, earned 22.72 percent.

“I’m very excited that there was a good voter turnout and that such a large percentage of the turnout voted for me,” Ball said.

Ball attributed her success to focusing “on the people that could put me in office – the voters.”

“I talked to just as many voters as I could through phone calls, through festival attendance and just shaking hands and talking to people,” Ball said. She added that her large family helped spread the word across Johnston County.

This fall, Ball will face Democrat Michelle Denning, who faced no primary opponent. Longtime incumbent Will Crocker is retiring at the end of his term.

House District 26

Veteran state lawmaker Leo Daughtry defeated Dennis Nielsen in the Republican primary for N.C. House District 26, assuring the Smithfield attorney an easy path to his 12th term in the legislature.

Daughtry, who faces no opposition this fall, earned 73.13 percent of the vote, while Nielsen, a Clayton gun store owner, received 26.87 percent.

Daughtry, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is on the short list for speaker of the House. Daugthry has said he said he would be happy to serve as speaker if elected by his fellow lawmakers.

“I’m grateful to the people of the county for having enough confidence in me to send me back,” Daughtry said.

Staff writer Nash Dunn contributed to this report.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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