Field set for Special Election

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Registered voters in the First Congressional District will receive a rare opportunity on July 20; a chance to cast two ballots on the same day.

With last week’s resignation of First District Representative Frank Ballance, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley called for a Special Election on July 20 to fill the Bertie County native’s unexpired term in the U.S. Congress.

Ballance was diagnosed in early February with Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease. He said his declining health was the reason behind the decision to resign.

July 20th also marks the Primary election process throughout the state. Prior to Ballance’s decision to first withdraw from that particular race and then later deciding to resign, a field of candidates had lined-up to challenge the first-term Representative for his seat in Congress. The names of three of those candidates will be contained on both ballots.

This past weekend, the First District Republican Party nominated Greg Dority for the Special Election. Dority, of Washington, is already a Republican candidate on the Primary ballot. There he faces a challenge from Jerry Williford of Oxford.

On Monday, the Democrats of the First District chose G.K. Butterfield of Wilson to represent the party on the Special Election ballot. He is also on the Primary ballot, along with the likes of Sam Davis of Elizabeth City and Christine Fitch and Darryl Smith, both of Wilson.

The North Carolina Libertarian Party nominated Tom Eisenmenger of Roanoke Rapids as their Special Election candidate.

According to North Carolina elections law, each of the state’s three major parties could nominate one candidate each for the Special Election. The winner of that election will be immediately sworn-in to fill the remainder of Ballance’s term, which ends in January of 2005.

According to local election officials, voters will face two separate Congressional decisions on July 20. On one hand, they will make their choice among the three candidates on the Special Election ballot. Secondly, they will decide among the Congressional candidates (of their political party) for the Primary Election. The Primary winners – one each from the three parties – will advance to the Nov. 2 General Election from the victor will be elected to a two-year term as the Representative of North Carolina’s First Congressional District.

&uot;It may sound confusing, but it’s really not,&uot; said Shelia Fleetwood, Director of the Hertford County Board of Elections. &uot;There will be a vote for the (Congressional) candidates running for the Special Election and another vote for the (Congressional) candidates running in the Primary.&uot;

Fleetwood continued, &uot;What may make it appear confusing is that at least three of the names facing the voters are listed twice, but it’s two, totally different elections.&uot;

What really makes this Special Election even more unique is the fact that the winner may not make it to the General Election in November.

&uot;One of those three names on the ballot will, by the voice of the people in the First Congressional District, win the Special Election and go on to represent the District for the remainder of Mr. Ballance’s term,&uot; stated Northampton County Elections Director Tonya Pitts. &uot;However, depending again on the voice of the people, the winner of the Special Election may be defeated when the votes are cast in the Primary Election.&uot;

The First Congressional District encompasses 23 counties in eastern North Carolina, including the four here in the Roanoke-Chowan area.