Newcomer stuns four-term incumbent

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2004

WINTON – When he decided to test the political waters for the very first time earlier this year, Howard Hunter III didn’t break the news to his famous father – District 5 State House of Representative Howard Hunter Jr. – until the day he filed for Hertford County Commissioner.

After the son collected the highest vote total among any of the nine County Commissioner hopefuls on Tuesday’s Primary election ballot, he didn’t have the hide the news from his dad as a proud papa was sitting just across the room in the Hertford County Board of Elections office.

Hunter III swept the District 1 seat by a wide margin, garnering 52 percent of the vote as he was named on 1,579 ballots to easily oust four-term incumbent Vernice Howard of Murfreesboro. Howard, suffering her first defeat since winning the 1988 Commissioners race, was credited with 874 votes. Carl White ran third in the District 1 field with 564 votes.

All votes are unofficial until next week’s canvass is completed.

&uot;I’ve said all along that if I was fortunate enough to win this election, I would be a Commissioner that would stand on his own two feet,&uot; said Hunter III, a 34-year-old who helps to run his family’s business – Hunter’s Funeral Home.

He continued, &uot;I’m proud of my father and what he has done for this county and this part of the state, but I’m not going to ride on his coattails. I’m going to be my own man, the same man everyone now knows. I believe this election was won on trust….the voters trusted me and I thank them for that trust and support. Now it’s time to go to work for them.&uot;

Hunter III came within a mere five votes of sweeping all 13 Hertford County precincts. He dominated all three Ahoskie polling places (tabulating 198 votes in Ahoskie I, 121 in Ahoskie II and 134 in Ahoskie III) en route to claiming victory in 11 of the county’s precincts.

He also faired extremely well in Cofield and Harrellsville, where he swept both by more than a 2-to-1 margin over Howard. Murfreesboro I (215 votes) and Winton (133 votes) were listed among Hunter’s overwhelming conquests.

His lone losses came by narrow margins in Murfreesboro II (captured by Howard, 91-89) and St. Johns (White’s home precinct that he won over Hunter III by a slim 65-62 count).

Unless the official results drastically turn the tables following next week’s canvass, Hunter III will take his oath of office in December. He faces no opposition in November’s General Election.