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Troxler opposes statewide election

RALEIGH – When the North Carolina State Cabinet gathers soon to take their respective oaths of office, Britt Cobb will not be among the honorees. For that matter, neither will Steve Troxler.

Despite the passage of two full months, the race for North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner remains as much as a mystery today as it did when the General Election polls closed on Nov. 2, 2004.

After several maneuvers by the State Board of Elections, it appears now the race will be decided in a special statewide election. That date has yet to be determined.

Following the Nov. 2 General Election and a round of recounts, Troxler, the Republican challenger, held a narrow 2,353-vote lead over Cobb, the Democratic incumbent. The race attracted over 3.3 million voters.

However, a voting machine error in Carteret County eliminated 4,438 ballots, presenting state Elections Board members with an option of allowing only voters in that county to decide the race during a special election on Jan. 11.

Troxler filed an appeal on that decision, one upheld by Wake County Superior Court Judge Henry Hight. In a Dec. 17 ruling, Judge Hight wrote that the Jan. 11 plan for Carteret County only was, &uot;arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law and affected by error of law.&uot;

As expected, the newly ordered statewide election drew different political viewpoints.

&uot;I am confident that this injustice will be appealed to the courts and struck down,&uot; said Ferrell Blount, State Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party. &uot;The State Board of Elections had the opportunity to serve justice by declaring Steve Troxler the winner and bring the 2004 elections to an end. Instead they have abused their discretion so that Britt Cobb can have yet another shot at holding on to the Department of Agriculture.&uot;

According to Blount, the Carteret County Board of Elections had identified which voters’ ballots were lost from the November election. The Republican members of the State Board moved to allow the November election to be completed by giving those 4,400 voters the opportunity to participate in the election. He said every Democrat member on the State Board voted ‘no.’

&uot;Everyone knows that Steve Troxler has won this race,&uot; Blount continued. &uot;Carteret County is a Republican County. Britt Cobb knows that the 4,400 voters of Carteret County will not save him from defeat, which is why he is pushing for a new statewide election at taxpayer expense. The (State) Board’s vote was craven political gamesmanship, exposing once again that Democrats will do anything, even break the law, to stay in power. To them the preferences of the people are irrelevant.&uot;

Cobb saw it a different way.

&uot;I’m glad the State Board of Elections followed the court’s instructions and corrected the legal errors contained in its earlier order,&uot; he said in a press release. &uot;As I have been urging, military personnel will now be able to vote, absentee ballots will be allowed, and one-stop voting will be restored.&uot;

Cobb continued, &uot;I’ve said all along that it’s the job of the Board of Elections and the courts to determine what the law requires and it’s the candidates’ job to obey.

Now I look forward to a vigorous campaign and a spirited debate on the issues:

protecting consumers, creating jobs, and providing experienced leadership for our state’s largest industry.&uot;

State Elections Board officials estimated the cost of a new statewide election would cost $3.5 million. They added that the earliest such an election could be held was mid-March.

In the meantime, Cobb, as the incumbent, will continue in his role as State Agriculture Commissioner.