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Only one runoff set so far for local races.
By Clellie Allen
Although provisional ballots will not be counted until Friday, Patricia Burnette Chastain, Franklin County’s Clerk of Superior Court, has won the primary election in one of the most hotly contested local primary races.
Burnette, appointed to her position one year ago after the resignation of long-time clerk Alice Faye Hunter, beat out challenger Shelley Dickerson by 106 votes. Dickerson was an assistant clerk under Hunter and received her endorsement.
“I am absolutely overjoyed,” Chastain said shortly after the still-unofficial numbers were released Tuesday night. “This is a definite win for all the people of Franklin County. I believe in the justice system — it’s why I ran. This was a vote to make sure integrity and the law are held to the highest standards.”
The race between the two Democratic candidates was initially marked by revelations from the Franklin County District Attorney Sam Currin that Hunter had resigned in April 2013 with an immunity agreement against prosecution for unlawfully changing civil judgements. Although Hunter claimed at the time she was resigning to spend time with her family, she did not give notice of her action and the court house was actually shut down in the middle of business until an emergency appointment of an interim clerk could be made.
While Hunter could not have personally benefitted directly from the changes, Currin said, it was the victims in the civil judgement who were most likely to be hurt.
Allegations of misconduct in the Clerk’s office under Hunter expanded as multiple audits by N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts revealed Hunter’s seeming unwillingness to comply with state regulations and remove cashiers’ access to the Automated Criminal Infraction System (ACIS) and the Civil Case Processing System (VCAP). At the time of Hunter’s departure, at least one cashier had the ability to waive, without oversight, criminal citations in ACIS while three had the same access in VCAP.
Additionally, numerous irregularities were discovered in the handling of estate files with some lacking required items like death certificates and proper accounting.
While early discoveries revolved around Hunter, shortly after the filing period began, Chastain discovered someone had bought up all web addresses associated with her name, making it nearly impossible to create a website for her campaign.
Superior Court Judge James Hardin ruled March 26 such action constituted identity theft — a felony under state law — and ordered domain host giant, Go Daddy Inc., to release the web addresses to Chastain and also to release the private purchasing information of the person or persons who purchased them.
Monday, the day before the primary, Go Daddy Inc. revealed it was Shelley Dickerson’s husband, James Eric Dickerson, who purchased 16 different domain names, all with Chastain’s name and many with the words, “for clerk.”
According to the Go Daddy documents, Eric Dickerson used an Engineered Tower Solutions company credit card to buy 16 different domains between Jan. 15 and Jan. 16. Dickerson is part owner of the company. Eric Dickerson listed his company e-mail address, email@example.com, and his home mailing address, 230 Leonard Road, as the contact information for the purchase.
On Shelley Dickerson’s April 28 campaign finance report, the $181.68 spent for the web addresses was listed as an in-kind expenditure by her husband.
Under North Carolina law, it is illegal for a corporation or business entity to directly or indirectly contribute to a candidate. This includes in-kind contributions.
Joshua Lawson of the N.C. State Board of Elections said Monday that an investigator would be looking into the possibility that the contribution violated state election law.
When reached for comment Monday afternoon, Eric Dickerson denied any wrong doing.
“To my knowledge, I have not done anything wrong,” he said. “I have not been served with any papers.”
(All results are unofficial until the provisional ballots are counted and verified and the Board of Elections certifies the final numbers.)
U.S. Senate: Current N.C. Speaker of the House Republican Thom Tillis will face Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.
The Republican primary closed with Thom Tillis the winner with 45.69 percent of the vote. Greg Brannon received 27.14 percent and Mark Harris 17.56 percent.
Kay Hagan won the Democratic primary with 77.20 percent.
Libertarian Sean Haugh won his party’s primary with 60.74 percent of the vote.
U.S. House, District 1: Republican Arthur Rich won with 51.29 percent of the vote. Brent Shypulefski conceded the race Wednesday morning. Rich will face the Democratic primary winner, incumbent G.K. Butterfield who won with 81.35 percent of the vote.
In U.S. District 13, Democratic primary, Brenda Cleary won with 70.34 percent. She will face incumbent George Holding.
For N.C. Supreme Court, a non-partisan race, current Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson, endorsed by the Democratic Party, won the three-way primary with 42.56 percent of the vote. She will face the runner up, Eric Levinson, in November’s election. Levinson is backed by the Republican party, and garnered 36.58 percent of the vote.
In the N.C. Senate District 15 Republican Primary, Jim Fulghum won with 80.06 percent. He will face Democrat Tom Bradshaw in November.
Wake County races
For the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court, Republican Jennifer Knox will face Democrat Sam Bridges. Knox won with 42.08 percent and Bridges won with 54.35 percent of the votes.
In the Wake County District Attorney race, unofficially there will be a runoff between Republican candidates Jeff Cruden and John Bryant. The winner will face Nancy (Lorrin) Freeman who garnered 57.83 percent of the Democratic primary vote.
Incumbent Joe Bryan won the Republican primary contest for Wake Commissioner, District 1 with 76.96 percent of the vote. He will face Democratic challenger Sig Hutchinson in November.
Franklin County races
The Franklin County Sheriff’s race saw a field a seven total candidates narrowed to two. Jerry Jones, the Republican incumbent, won his party’s primary with 54.57 percent. His closest challenger was Tom Hawley who took 23.37 percent. William Mitchell won 19.62 percent.
Jones will face current Bunn Chief of Police Kent Winstead, who won the Democratic primary with 45.43 percent of the vote. He beat out Joe Lynch, who had 29.87 percent, and Bruce Baker, 24.69 percent.
Incumbent Franklin County Commissioner David Bunn won the race against his Republican primary challenger Roger Lytle with 50.81 percent of the vote. He will now face Democrat Ginger A. Baker in November.
The Democratic primary race between Chastain and Shelley Dickerson decides the Clerk’s race overall as there is not a Republican challenger. Chastain won, preliminarily, with 50.81 percent of the vote. Any request by Dickerson for a recount must wait until after the provisional ballots are counted Friday.
The other race decided in the primary for lack of a challnger in the fall, is the District 9 District Attorney’s race between Democrats Mike Waters and Cindy Pulley Bostic. District 9 covers Franklin, Vance, Warren and Granville counties.
Waters won the race with 58.02 percent of the vote.
Other races that did not have a challenger for the primary or in the fall were for Franklin County Board of Education District 1, Bernard Hall is the winner; Franklin County Board of Education District 3, Elizabeth Keith is the winner; Franklin County Board of Education District 5, Gil Johnson is the winner and Franklin County Board of Education-at-Large, seat 7, Paige Sayles is the winner.