Incumbents fall in Bertie electionsPublished 9:00am Thursday, May 8, 2014
WINDSOR – For the first time in many years, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners will have no one with tenure of more than two years.
Three incumbent commissioners – including District-2 Commissioner Rick Harrell, who did not campaign, but whose name still appeared on the ballot despite his late withdrawal from the race – were all out-polled in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary election.
Come December, if there is no opposition in the November general election, three new commissioners will be sworn in; including, for the first time in county history, two women.
Unofficial results show that in the District-3 commissioner’s race, Tammy Ashworth Lee, the evening’s highest vote-getter, defeated three-term office-holder and former Bertie County Sheriff, J. Wallace Perry by a nearly four-to-one margin. Lee’s unofficial total of 2,718 votes was the highest tallied by any candidate in any race in Tuesday’s election.
Lee outpolled Perry in all 12 precincts as well as absentee balloting and one-stop voting at the four locations of the Board of Elections in Windsor, Powellsville, Lewiston, and Midway. In each polling, Lee won by no less than 40 votes, including the candidates’ home precinct of Colerain-1. Perry’s only win was Lewiston one-stop voting where he tallied two votes more than Lee at 26 to 24. Perry finished with 681 total votes.
At the County Office building Tuesday night, as she watched the final returns trickle in, Lee appeared somewhat overwhelmed at her victory margin and thanked everyone for their support.
“I’m thrilled,” Lee began. “I’d like to thank everybody for showing up and exercising their right to vote and casting their vote for me. I thank my husband, Vernon, for being absolutely wonderful through the whole thing, but mostly I want to thank God.”
Lee stopped short of calling her election a mandate, but does feel her victory margin sends a message.
“I wanted it to be clear that there was no question what the county wanted,” Lee said. “They’re saying it’s time for a change; and I’ve made my promise that I’ll be forthright in all I do. I will represent them with what they want, and I will stand behind that promise. I will do the very best I can do for all the citizens of BertieCounty”
Another political newcomer, Ernestine (Byrd) Bazemore, received 1,905 votes to defeat two-term incumbent Charles L. Smith in the District-5 race. Smith tallied 1,376 votes.
Bazemore took seven of 12 precincts and all of the one-stop polling places. This included Smith’s home districts of Snakebite and Indian Woods, though he did win in the absentee balloting.
Lee and Bazemore would be the first women on the Board of Commissioners since Patricia Ferguson served over a decade ago.
In the three-way race in District-2, John “Johnny” Davis emerged the winner with 1,604 votes to 1,227 for opponent Rev. James Clemons with incumbent Harrell receiving 536 votes.
Clemons won both candidates’ home precinct of Merry Hill as well as Windsor-2 and Snakebite; while Davis captured the other nine precincts, absentee balloting, and one-stop.
“It was a tough battle,” Davis said as the Commissioner’s room began to clear of poll-watchers. “I’m thankful to a lot of people and thankful to Mr. Clemons who ran a clean campaign.”
Like the other winners on the night, Davis agreed that the election sends a message to the Bertie board.
“If there was a referendum I think it would be that people are looking for new leadership,” Davis stated. “Three incumbents ran and now we have three new commissioners and we have our work cut out for us. We have a budget that’s extremely tight and really there are two more new commissioners we’ll be joining who’ve been trying to do some new innovative things that are not necessarily easy for all of us to keep up with and follow. We’re just going to have to keep selling to the people in the county and trying to create a vision to go to get Bertie to where we need to be and get people to believe in Bertie.”