Tuesday, May 8, a about 89 percent of the voters in Guilford County didn’t vote, so about 11 percent of the voters decided who would move on from the primaries to the general election in November.
It’s not hard to understand why voter turnout was so low. In many Republican precincts the sheriff’s race was the only one on the ballot.
The Democrats elected a new Guilford County district attorney, since the Republicans don’t have a candidate in the race.
There were no big upsets on Tuesday night. All the incumbents won, which means the throw the bums out movement didn’t have much effect.
Former District Court Judge Avery Crump, with 14,665 votes for 54 percent, defeated Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Reese, with 12,714 for 46 percent, in the Democratic primary for Guilford County district attorney.
The district attorney’s Democratic primary was one of the closest races of the evening and arguably the most notable for a number of reasons. With no Republican in the race, Crump was essentially elected the new Guilford County district attorney. Whichever candidate won, Guilford County was going to elect its first female district attorney. Crump also becomes Guilford County’s first black district attorney.
Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson announced that he would not be running for reelection after 13 years in office and would be returning to private practice, which meant there was no incumbent in the race, and the result was two highly qualified women running against each other.
Crump had worked as an assistant district attorney for nine years before being elected District Court judge, where she also served for nine years before resigning to run for district attorney.
A judge is required to resign before filing to run for district attorney. Crump said that she worked her last day as judge, resigned and then drove to Raleigh to file to run for district attorney, which is a good indication of her work ethic. She could have resigned first, filed to run and taken the rest of the day off.
Both Reese and Crump said that if elected they would be more visible in the community, and both pledged to start more special courts similar to the current drug court and offer more alternative sentencing.
The two had worked together in the district attorney’s office and one of the main differences between the candidates was that Crump had left the district attorney’s office when she was elected judge, so Reese had more experience as a prosecutor but Crump had gained a different perspective on the district attorney’s role as a judge.
One of Crump’s few complaints about the district attorney’s office was that she thought too many cases were continued without sufficient cause. She said that as district attorney she would require cases to be tried, unless there was a reason they couldn’t be.
The race seemed closer than it actually ended up being because Crump started the evening with a lead of about 19 percent, and that dwindled as the precinct totals came in.
This was what political races should be – two good candidates running on the issues. In the end it appears the voters decided that having the perspective as a judge outweighed the additional years of experience Reece had in the district attorney’s office.
Crump still has to win the election in November to officially be elected the Guilford County district attorney, but with no other names on the ballot, it’s as much of a sure thing as is possible in politics.
US Congress ╨13th District
The 13th Congressional District race that has been long anticipated between two well-funded candidates is now a reality. Democratic 13th Congressional District candidate Kathy Manning, with 19,472 votes for 70 percent, easily defeated Adam Coker, who had 8,289 votes for 30 percent.
Coker, who according to the latest campaign finance report raised about $50,000, needed a miracle to beat Manning, who already has over $1 million in her campaign war chest. And now that she is the Democratic candidate, that is likely to grow like wisteria in spring.
Coker concentrated on what he could do, which was run a grassroots, door to door campaign, but a congressional district with over 700,000 people is too big for door to door to have the kind of impact that it has in a City Council or state House race.
Sixth District Congressman Mark Walker had an impact with his door to door campaign in the Republican primary in 2014, but he had a large crowd of volunteers helping him, and he got started early. In the end, even that well organized campaign wasn’t enough to put him on top in the primary. Walker finished second to Phil Berger Jr. in the nine-candidate primary. But Walker came back and won the runoff.
In this race, Coker was depending on door to door while Manning ran television commercials. And while door to door is more personal, when you’re campaigning in a five-county area, you can reach a lot more voters with one commercial than with a weekend of knocking on doors.
Now Manning is running against 13th District Congressman Ted Budd, who had no primary opponent. In 2016, Budd raised far more money than any other candidate in the 17-candidate Republican primary and went on to defeat former Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis in the general election.
Manning can raise money. Not only did she raise over a million for the Democratic primary, Manning raised $40 million in private donations for Greensboro’s Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts. So the money race is on.
The 13th Congressional District is Republican leaning, but is not as Republican as the 6th. Budd won with 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Davis, who was not considered a particularly strong candidate in that district.
The Budd-Manning race has the potential to be one of the most expensive congressional races in North Carolina.
The Republican National Congressional Committee released a statement linking Manning to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi before all the votes were counted. Shortly after the race was decided, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out a three-page attack on Budd.
Both parties have targeted the 13th Congressional District as one to win.
US Congress ╨ 6th District
In the 6th Congressional District Democratic primary, political newcomer Ryan Watts, with 25,883 votes for 77 percent, easily defeated Gerald Wong, with 7,663 votes for 23 percent. Getting 77 percent of the vote in any race is a good way to start a political career.
But Watts has his work cut out for him in November running against two-term incumbent Mark Walker, who is an extremely energetic campaigner.
In 2014, Walker won the seat of the much beloved Congressman Howard Coble, who retired after serving 30 years in Congress and who died in 2015. Coble was known for his hats, colorful jackets and constituent services, not necessarily in that order. Although Walker hasn’t taken to wearing hats or madras sport coats, he has worked to follow Coble’s lead in the constituent services aspect of the job.
Walker is also moving up the leadership ladder in the House. He is currently chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which has a name that belies its power. Vice President Mike Pence and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise both served as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
The 6th District is considered a safe Republican district. Walker won with 59 percent of the vote in 2014 and in 2016. With all the redistricting, it’s hard to keep up, but the district has not changed since 2016.
Watts also will likely have trouble raising money. Because the 6th is considered a safe Republican district, it’s going to be more difficult for him to get funding from the national Democratic campaign organizations.
The DCCC didn’t send out a long email for Watts as soon as he won the nomination like it did for Manning.
On the national scene the 6th District is most likely going to take a backseat to the 13th, which the Democrats think they have a much better chance of winning and the Republicans are determined to hold.
NC House ╨ District 58
District 58 state House Rep. Amos Quick had little trouble defeating Katelyn Flippen in the Democratic primary. Quick, who is running for his second term in the House, won with 4,145 votes for 80 percent over Flippen who had 1,024 votes for 20 percent.
Quick served on the Guilford County Board of Education for 12 years before being elected to the state House. Quick, as one would expect, has a special interest in education, and even as a freshman in the minority party he has had some success in pushing his agenda.
Quick will face Republican Peter Boykin of Greensboro in November.
NC House ╨ District 59
In both Democratic and Republican state House primaries, incumbents ruled.
In the Republican District 59 state House primary, District 59 state House Rep. Jon Hardister won with 2,687 votes for 69 percent over former state Sen. Mark McDaniel with 1,009 votes for 26 percent. Karen Albright, who didn’t campaign but whose name was still on the ballot, received 206 votes for 5 percent, which really is a good showing when you consider that the only reason her name was on the ballot was that she missed the deadline for officially dropping out.
McDaniel ran a strange campaign against the Republican tax reform package that has received high praise from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine and others.
Forbes even published an article about the success of the Republican tax reform plan and the fact that McDaniel was running against it. It wasn’t the entire tax reform package but the portion that expanded the sales tax to services that McDaniel objected to.
It appears the voters overwhelmingly are willing to accept an expanded sales tax in return for lower personal and corporate income tax rates and higher standard deductions.
Hardister, who is running for his fourth term in the House, is currently the House majority whip, which is the third highest ranking position on the House leadership team behind the speaker and majority leader.
Hardister ran on the success of the Republican tax reform plan that has reduced the tax burden on North Carolinians by $4 billion and resulted in the state moving from 44th in the country for business climate to 11th.
Hardister will now face Democrat Steve Buccini who had no primary in November.
An interesting twist on this race is that both Hardister and Buccini had their residency in the district challenged.
The Guilford County Board of Elections determined that Hardister, who moved into the district after the latest redistricting had placed him in the same district with state House Rep. John Faircloth, did live in the district.
The Guilford County Board of Elections had a tie vote on whether Buccini had met the residency requirements to run for office, so that will be determined by the state board of elections.
Everything old is new again.
Well, not everything, but the ballot box in the Guilford County sheriff’s race in November 2018 is going to be identical to the ballot four years ago. Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, the winner in the Tuesday, May 8 Republican primary, will face Democratic primary winner Danny Rogers, a former High Point police officer and former deputy with the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department.
Rogers has been out of law enforcement for a long time, but he is champing at the bit to get back into it, and now he’s hoping to do what no other Democrat – or Republican for that matter – has done in a quarter of a century: defeat Barnes on Election Day.
Barnes has lost a lot of weight since four years ago when he was reelected sheriff, but one thing he hasn’t lost is the solid base of support among Guilford County voters who keep sending him back to that office time and time again.
Barnes had a contentious primary battle but, in the end, Barnes won by a landslide – perhaps an avalanche – pulling in 11,358 votes for 88 percent of the vote compared to only 1,610 votes for 12 percent for Steve Parr, who retired from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department three years ago.
Rogers didn’t win by as big a margin but he did beat not one but two opponents in the Democratic primary: TJ Phipps and James Zimmerman. Rogers got 13,478 votes for 52 percent of the vote; while Phipps, a retired Greensboro police officer, got 9,415 votes for 36 percent; and James Zimmerman, a retired Guilford County sheriff’s deputy, got 3,025 votes for 12 percent.
As the election results came in Tuesday night, Barnes was celebrating at the Republican Party headquarters in Greensboro. The sheriff was a lot more laid back at 7:32 p.m. Tuesday night than he was at 7:30 p.m. – right before the early voting results were posted. Before he saw the numbers, Barnes was concerned. He’s been around in politics long enough to know that, when there’s a low turnout primary, as their was May 8, an underdog can get a lot of supporters to the polls and pull a major upset.
That was what Parr was trying to do, but in the end Barnes sailed through the primary as he usually does.
Barnes said it was a relief to win and to do so by a healthy margin.
“I was hopeful this was going to be the case,” Barnes said. “Not just that I would win but that the negative campaigning of my opponent would not win out. He has run a highly negative campaign and he has done nothing but try to tear down me and the department.”
Barnes said that the officers and others in the Sheriff’s Department were experiencing great successes and he said many of the negative claims of Parr were completely unfounded.
“We do a good job and we have great folks,” the county’s sheriff for the last quarter of a century said.
Right up until May 8, Barnes and Parr had been having a war on Facebook. Barnes said that he felt better about the election when he realized those showing support for Parr’s comments were the usual suspects.
“I took a look at Facebook and it was the same tired people,” Barnes said.
He said he’s getting feedback that Guilford County citizens like the way law enforcement is being handled in the county.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Barnes said, adding that he thought that was the view of many of those who voted for him.
The sheriff also said he relayed that message to the people he met on the campaign trail.
“We’ve had no scandals, no issues,” he said. “We’re doing a good job by the crime stats.”
On Tuesday night, Rogers sounded more exhausted than elated and he admitted as much.
“I’m tired,” Rogers said. “I’ve been campaigning all day.”
He wouldn’t disclose where he watched the results.
“I’m not telling anybody where I am,” he said Tuesday night.
From the background noise, however, it sounded as though Rogers was with supporters who were in a good mood and not nearly as tired as he was.
Winning the general election against Barnes will be a bigger task.
It’s interesting to note that, in 1994, the year Barnes was first elected sheriff, the State of North Carolina passed a resolution honoring Raymond Wallace Goodman as the longest serving sheriff in North Carolina’s history after he had served as sheriff of Richmond County since 1950 – which meant he was sheriff of that county for 44 years. Barnes will need another two decades as Guilford County sheriff to match that mark if that is his goal, and if he wins this year, he will need to serve four more terms after that.
Board of Commissioners
The two sitting Guilford County commissioners who faced opposition in the Tuesday, May 8 primary did very well for themselves and their supporters. Both District 2 Republican County Commissioner Alan Perdue and District 8 Democrat Skip Alston won by wide margins.
Perdue beat first-time candidate Ashley Tillery comfortably by pulling in 1,655 votes for 68 percent to Tillery’s 782 votes for 32 percent, while Alston had an even greater comfort level in his distance over his opponent: Alston collected 2,286 votes for 70 percent compared to 961 votes for 30 percent for Fahiym Hanna, who owns and operates an essential oils shop in Greensboro.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has been getting along so well lately that no doubt the two commissioners in politically opposite camps – Alston and Perdue – were pulling for each other: They may not agree with each other on everything, but it is at least the devil they know.
Alston, who faces no Democratic opposition in November, is now back on the board thanks to his primary win, but Perdue has another hurdle before he can say the same.
Perdue will now face Democrat Scott Jones in the general election. Jones, a former volunteer fireman, now serves as the executive board chairman of Tiny Houses Greensboro – an organization that helps provide long-term affordable housing to the homeless. Jones didn’t face any opposition in the Democratic primary.
Late Tuesday night, Perdue wasn’t worrying about November – he was instead enjoying May. He ran against an intelligent, articulate candidate with strong High Point roots and some solid backing in that city, but in the end Perdue won by taking the more rural precincts as well as those in Greensboro and Jamestown.
No matter how you slice it, Perdue has had a very impressive career and is a tough person to run against. He served for a decade as the director of Guilford County Emergency Services and helped make it one of the most respected emergency departments in the state. Before that he worked in other Emergency Services capacities, keeping the citizens of Guilford County safe.
And, on the Board of Commissioners for the last four years, he has been one of the most even-handed commissioners. He’s also part of a current team of commissioners that has been civil to each other, paid down the county’s debt, increased school funding and undertaken other needed projects like a new Animal Shelter. And the board has done that – as Perdue will be the first to point out – all while bringing down the county’s property tax rate.
Tuesday night, Perdue said he thought voters had a positive view of the Board of Commissioners.
“I think voters looked at the job we’ve been doing for the last three-and-a-half years,” he said. “We’ve been fiscally responsible while addressing the issues that need to be addressed.”
He also said the current board has a very good working relationship and that leads to good decision making.
“I think we’ve demonstrated we work well together,” Perdue said, adding that he means for that comment to apply to the Democrats on the board as well.
Perdue said he put in a full day of hard work Tuesday to try to get over the top in the primary.
“I worked multiple polls and was handing out information,” he said.
Perdue said he can’t celebrate too much because he has another election to win before regaining the District 2 seat for another four-year term.
Tillery ran a campaign centered on High Point concerns, and it’s likely that the only reason Perdue had opposition in the primary was because of a controversial High Point stadium issue last year.
Perdue and eight other members of the nine-member Board of Commissioners did not vote to provide financial aid to High Point for its massive downtown stadium and revitalization project. That no doubt got Tillery some High Point votes, but in the end that clearly wasn’t enough.
Republican Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning was breaking down the results of the races Tuesday night and he said the striking thing to him was the way Perdue took everything that was not on Tillery’s home turf.
“He won every single precinct outside of High Point,” Henning said, adding that Perdue did so by a very nice margin in those areas.
Tillery won every precinct in High Point.
“Alan did really well along NC 62, in Pleasant Garden, Sumner and along the southern boarder of the county,” Henning said.
Henning said Perdue is so strong in those areas that Tillery’s only path to victory, if there was one, would have been knocking on every Jamestown and Greensboro door in the district.
On Tuesday night, Alston was watching the election results at the Old Guilford County Court House and, as he did, he said he liked what he saw very much.
Alston, who’s highly popular in District 8, was going up against someone running for office for the first time. There weren’t many who were giving Hanna a chance,
“I think it boiled down to experience,” Alston said. “In the political climate we have now, we need as much experience as possible.”
Alston said he had really enjoyed working on the current board. He has a lot of previous boards to compare it to because he served as a Guilford County commissioner from 1992 to 2012.
Alston, despite all his experience, almost didn’t get this chance to serve again last year. When the District 8 commissioner seat became vacant after former Guilford County Commissioner Ray Trapp stepped down to take a job with NC A&T State University, Alston almost lost his bid for the seat to a political upstart due to a lot of divisiveness and political chaos in that district.
“I have really tried to unite the district and unite the party,” Alston said Tuesday night.
Alston will have to run again in 2020 – rather than 2022 – if he wants to continue being a commissioner at that point. That’s because he actually won the right to serve out Trapp’s four-year term that started in 2016.
Alston said that, with cuts by the federal and state governments affecting local governments, it was more important than ever that local elected officials see that safety nets are preserved and he said he intends to make that a priority in his coming term.
Board of Education ╨ At-large
One of the reasons given for changing the Guilford County Board of Education races from nonpartisan to partisan was because it was supposed to attract more candidates, and it appears to have done that.
There were four Democratic primaries for Guilford County Board of Education and one Republican primary. Incumbents were running in three of those five races and all three incumbents won.
Guilford County Board of Education Chairman Alan Duncan won his three-way Democratic primary in the at-large race by a comfortable margin but failed to get over 50 percent of the vote.
Duncan had 13,272 votes for just under 50 percent. Tijuana Hayes finished second with 9,507 votes for 36 percent and Keith McInnis came in third with 3,967 votes for 15 percent.
Duncan has been on the school board since 2000 and has been chairman since 2002. He is an attorney with Turning Point Litigation and is considered one of the top litigators in the state by his peers. He was also recently appointed to the North Carolina Board of Education, which if he can handle both jobs could be a real boon to the Guilford County school system.
In November, Duncan will be running against retired Greensboro Police Officer Marc Ridgill, who had no Republican primary opponent.
Board of Education ╨ District 4
A lot of folks want to represent District 4 on the school board. There were both Republican and Democratic primaries in that race. So if attracting more candidates is the goal, then in District 4 the partisan races can be considered a rousing success.
In the Republican primary, incumbent District 4 school board member Linda Welborn, with 1,520 votes for 63 percent, defeated political newcomer Will Marsh, who had 900 votes for 37 percent.
Winning 63 percent of the vote is a decisive victory and indicates either that the people in District 4 like the job Welborn is doing or that they recognized her name on the ballot.
Some local pundits had predicted that Marsh would do better because he was running in the Republican primary and Marsh is secretary of the Guilford County Republican Party and the founder of the Young Professional Republicans club. But the truth is that the vast majority of Republicans in Guilford County have no idea who the Republican Party secretary is, and it would be interesting to do a survey and find out how many know the name of the chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party. (It’s Troy Lawson, who is also a candidate running for the District 57 state House seat.)
For a first-time candidate who started off with no name recognition running against an incumbent school board member who has been in the news quite a bit, getting 37 percent of the vote is not a bad start.
In November, Welborn will face Democratic District 4 school board candidate Desiree Best, who won the Democratic primary with 1,977 votes for 69 percent, over Adrienne Spinner, who had 888 votes for 31 percent.
Board of Education ╨ District 6
In the District 6 battle, Khem Denise Irby, an after school teacher, beat out website designer Chris Hocker, with Irby receiving 1,524 votes for 57 percent and Hocker getting 1,163 votes for 43 percent.
Irby was elated late Tuesday night when her victory was assured. She said she had felt good about her chances when she was working the polls Tuesday.
“I got a lot of hugs today,” she said.
She said that, on Election Day, she was working parents as they picked up kids from Florence Elementary School in High Point.
Irby added that she hopes to win the seat on the board so she can work to advance her priorities – getting new school buildings, advancing school safety and increasing teacher salaries.
Irby will now face Republican District 6 incumbent Wes Cashwell.
She celebrated the victory in an interesting way – by watching Perry Mason, a TV series that went off the air on May 22, 1966. She said at her house that was a favorite TV show. It is safe to say that she is the only candidate on the ballot – and perhaps one of the few people in the country – who was watching that show Tuesday night.
Board of Education ╨ District 8
In the Democratic battle for the District 8 seat on the Guilford County Board of Education, incumbent Deena Hayes, who has a wealth of name recognition at her disposal, surprised no one by winning handily, pulling in 2,237 votes for 70 percent of the vote against William (BJ) Levette’s 573 votes for 18 percent and Laverne Carter’s 388 votes for 12 percent.
Levette is a mortgage processer who has worked to help the homeless, while Carter, the former education chair for the NAACP, is perhaps best known recently for trying to get two school board members to resign over a controversial email.
Since there’s no Republican opposition in District 8, Hayes should regain her seat, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Hayes, who was celebrating at the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro Tuesday night, sometimes goes by the name Hayes-Greene, but this year on the ballot it was just “Hayes.”
She was first elected to the school board in 2002 and has spent a decade and a half as a community organizer. She chairs the Board of Education’s Historically Underutilized Business Advisory Committee as well as committees that address the achievement gap and attempt to increase school safety.