2014 Primary Elections
Berger, Walker head to second primary in Sixth District Harrison, Robinson, Schatzman hold their seats
The Clerk of Court in Guilford County and a sitting Forsyth County commissioner appeared to be the only incumbents to fall in primary election challenges in Guilford and Forsyth counties on Tuesday. Several prominent incumbents, including state Rep. Pricey Harrison, state Sen. Gladys Robinson and Forsyth County Sheriff Bill Schaztman cruised to significant victories after a sometimes brutal campaign.
State Rep. Alma Adams of Guilford County was slightly over the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff in the race to fill Mel Watts shoes in the 12 th Congressional District. Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. didn’t appear to be as lucky. Berger Jr. was headed to a second primary battle against second place finisher Mark Walker, according to unofficial returns.
In the most nationally prominent race of the primary season, House Speaker Thom Tillis cruised easily to a win in the Republican primary and earned the right to battle Sen. Kay Hagan this fall in a race that could decide the balance of the US Senate. Democrats hold the slimmest of margins in that branch of Congress, and Hagan has often been listed as one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators.
A total of 445,000 Republican voters cast ballots the senate race statewide, compared to 414,000 on the Democratic side.
In the most watched race locally, Berger Jr. took about 37 percent of the vote in the Sixth Congressional District. The top vote getter needed 40 percent to avoid a runoff, so Berger Jr. will now face Mark Walker, a former worship minister at Lawndale Baptist Church, in a second primary election in July. Walker had about 24 percent of the vote late Tuesday night. Bruce VonCannon trailed in third with 12 percent, followed by Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny at 10 percent.
Berger Jr. was excited with his showing in the primary, and had his message sharpened for the next round.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, so we can’t predict the future,” Berger Jr. said. “I know our message resonated with voters today though so I’m excited as we move forward. Our message of overturning Obamacare and taking Christian conservative values to Washington resonated with voters.”
Democrat Laura Fjeld of Orange County easily secured the Democratic nomination with a 12 point win over Bruce Davis. Fjeld now awaits the winner of the second GOP primary, which takes place on July 15.
See a full list of results on page 12.
As voters trickled into polling places across Greensboro, campaigners descended upon them from all side with flyers, pamphlets and handshakes.
While some poll workers were able to round up folding chairs and claim a shady spot, others suffered through the beating sun for hours on end.
Democratic State Senator Gladys Robinson stopped by to meet with voters at Brown Recreation Center. Robinson has been in a heated campaign with Skip Alston, who tried to unseat her for the 28 th district. She won that election handily.
“I have about 77 precincts and I’ve been to about half of those,” Robinson said with surprising energy.
Everyone seemed somewhat concerned about the low turnout. People barely seemed to trickle into polling places. Many of them seemed overwhelmed at being outnumbered by all the campaigners.
At Rocky Knoll Baptist Church, a campaign supporter for Alston sat next to another for Robinson. The two women engaged in passionate debate in the parking lot while exchanging the talking points and political records for each candidate.
The Alston and Robinson race created some of the most tense moments at polling places. Campaigners for both candidates raced to get to a new voter first, and would even begin pitching the voter before they could even get out of their car.
“This is the longest, touchiest campaign I’ve had in 20 years,” Alston said. “We’ve done all we could do. We ran a grassroots campaign letting people know we wanted to go down there and represent them.”
Citizens who had already made up their mind had no problem letting campaigners know. Other voters just emphasized the importance of simply making an effort to come out and vote.
Greensboro resident, Karen Baker said she came out to vote, “Because it’s my civic duty.”
Baker consistently heard people express their concern over unemployment.
Every voter seemed to be thinking about jobs. This was the uniting issue. People may disagree on how to grow jobs or the economy, but everyone was in agreement that changes needed to be made.
Other voters spoke about their concerns over the coal ash disaster. “Nobody seems to be addressing it at all,” Carole Barnette said after voting. “Nobody is taking responsibility for it and it’s scary.”
At Craft Recreation Center, Pricey Harrison and Jim Kee were at the center of another competitive race. City Council member, Jamal Fox, was there in support of Harrison, who held on to her seat despite being placed in a newly drawn district.
Harrison has made the Dan River coal ash spill a central part of her platform. “My opponent is trying to make this race about jobs versus the environment, but those things aren’t mutually exclusive. I have worked to create over 3,500 clean energy jobs in Guilford County.”
Republican Commissioner Mark Baker was at the Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville doing some last-minute cam paigning Tuesday afternoon.
“Everything is going very well,” Baker said. “We are getting a good response from people.”
Baker began the day in Kernersville, and he spent the remainder going from place to place to show that he wants to remain Forsyth County commissioner. He planned to end his campaign at Cash Elementary School. Baker ultimately lost his bid for reelection, falling to former school’s superintendant Don Martin.
Baker said that he was pleased with the voter turnout for this year’s primary election.
“The turnout has been pretty steady for every place we have been today,” Baker said.
Baker planned to spend the evening at home, surrounded by family, awaiting the results of the election.
As Election Day winded down, Martin was still greeting the last minute voters outside of Shiloh Lutheran Church in Lewisville. Martin stood in a receiving line outside the church that included Ted Kazakos, candidate for District Court Judge, as well as David Singletary, candidate for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board.
“I like this location because there aren’t any signs allowed back here,” Martin said. “So we have to come interact with the voters.”
With only a couple hours left to campaign, Martin was hopeful that his hard working would pay off.
“I feel like I did all I can do,” Martin said. He was impressed with the voter turnout this year, and regardless of the outcome, he has enjoyed this campaign.
“It’s really been an experience,” Martin said. “I got reacquainted with a lot of people. I met a lot of new people. It’s really been an educational three months.”
Republican sheriff candidate David Griffith was at Griffith Volunteer Fire Department in Winston-Salem Tuesday morning. When he pulled into the parking lot, he was met with support and opposition.
“I am already worn out today,” Griffith said. “It has been a rollercoaster, but I think we have been very successful at getting our message out there.”
Griffith said that, at times, he was made to look as though he ran a negative campaign, but that was not his intention.
“Some people said that it was negative, but I don’t think it was,” Griffith said. “We ran a good campaign, and I am proud. It all boils down to who got their message out better.”
Shane Wells, a supporter and voter, works under Griffith at the Volunteer Fire Department.
“Dave is a great man with the right values,” Wells said. “He’s the kind of man that will go out of his way to help anyone. If it’s 3 or 4 in the morning, and we get a call, he will go out with us.”
L.E. Jones, wearing a neon green “Kilby for Sheriff” shirt, was at the fire station to show his support as well.
“I’ve known Kilby for over 30 years, I know his morals and values,” Jones said. “He is the right man for the job.”
The most interesting part of the visit at the fire station was the obvious camaraderie between the opposing sheriff supporters.
Jones wanted it to be known that while they may have different views now, they have all worked together at some point.
“We were all friends before this thing started, and I think we all will be afterwards too,” Jones said.
Both Kilby and Griffith failed to overtake incumbent Sheriff Schatzman, who was easily reelected despite heavy criticism from his opponents.
Also at the fire station were the parents of Michael Holleman who was running for US House.
Virginia and Clyde Holleman made quite a drive to be at the station campaigning for their son.
“We love our son,” Virginia said. “He’s the right one for the job.”
Holleman lost his bid for the Democratic nomination in the Fifth Congressional district as with all the electoral changes due to redistricting, many voters were left scratching their heads while trying to figure out just who their representatives might be. At the Kernersville Library, one man couldn’t find the candidate he wanted to vote for.
Harvey Pulliam Jr. is a Republican who has voted at the library for 50 years. This year, he was unaware that this precinct was no longer in the 31st North Carolina senate district, but it is now in the 32nd district.
“They gave me two ballots – one for Republican, and one for Democrat,” Pulliam said.
“I only needed one, and it seemed like they were trying to pull something over on me.” !