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12 vie for nominations

AHOSKIE – By Thursday evening we will know the names of the two individuals forwarded to North Carolina Governor Mike Easley for his consideration as the next General Assembly members representing the local region.

In the meantime there promises to be a substantial amount of political maneuvering occurring within the Roanoke-Chowan area.

Less than five days after the funerals of State House District 5 Representative Howard Hunter Jr. and State Senator (District 4) Robert Holloman, Democratic Party officials from seven northeastern North Carolina counties gathered Monday morning at Roanoke-Chowan Community College to launch the process of selecting Hunter’s and Holloman’s replacements.

Those party officials have a long list of candidates to choose from when they gather again on Thursday at the Windsor Community Building to nominate and vote on their respective candidates of choice. Thursday’s meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

The Candidates

To date, there are six candidates who continue to express interest for the vacant House District 5 seat. They include Windsor Town Commissioner Hoyt Cooper, Hertford County Commissioner Howard Hunter III, the son of the late Howard Hunter Jr., Gates County businessman John Lane, Town of Winfall Mayor Fred Yates, Annie W. Mobley of Ahoskie, Director of R.L. Vann

School Reunion Inc., and Alvin Basnight, a retiring Community Corrections officer in Bertie County.

Two others, Hertford County Board of Education member Wendell Hall and Rev. Robert Richardson of Hertford County, have withdrawn their names from consideration for the House District 5 seat.

On the Senate District 4 candidate list are Hertford County Commissioner DuPont Davis, former Bertie County Commissioner Patricia Ferguson, current House of Representatives (District 7) member Ed Jones of Halifax County, North Carolina Highway Patrol First Sgt. Kenneth Pitts of Northampton County, Willie Riddick of Windsor, a Deputy Secretary with NCDOT, Jean Reaves of Halifax County, who serves as Director of the Roanoke Valley Adult Day Center, and Alvin Basnight.

Following Monday’s meeting, Basnight said his priority was the Senate seat.

Murfreesboro Mayor Lynn Johnson originally expressed interest in the Senate seat, but has since withdrawn her name.

House District 5 includes Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Perquimans counties. The counties of Bertie, Chowan, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton and Perquimans comprise Senate District 4.

By law, those seeking nominations to either seat must be a registered Democrat residing in the respective districts. It was also mentioned at Monday’s meeting that those expressing interest in either seat are not guaranteed nomination.

Voting Process

Using the guidelines set forth under the North Carolina Democratic Party, each of the aforementioned counties will send pre-designated Democratic Party committee members (two each for the House and Senate) to Thursday’s meeting in Windsor.

In the case of the Senate District 4 committee representing Hertford County, it will send only party chairman Winfred Hardy due to the fact that their second committee member, Don Carter, has been declared ineligible because of a change in residency. Hertford County’s House District 5 committee has two voting members.

Two other counties, Bertie and Chowan, have spots to fill on these extremely important committees. The Bertie County Democratic Party needs to fill one position on the Senate executive committee and will do so during a 6 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. Chowan County will fill both positions on its Senate committee during a 6 p.m. meeting today (Tuesday).

Prior to the call of order of Thursday’s gathering, anyone meeting the aforementioned criteria can make their interest known as a candidate. After the meeting is gaveled to order, the floor will be open for nominations. That job falls solely into the hands of the House and Senate committee members from each county. They are free to nominate one or multiple individuals.

Once the nomination process is complete, each nominee is allowed to address the committee members for up to three minutes. After hearing those comments, each county committee is allowed to caucus among themselves as well as with members from other counties (inclusive to the district seat being discussed).

The voting process is next on the agenda. In each case, the committee member(s) making that decision are allowed one vote for each 300 residents of their county (population based upon the most recent decennial census).

If there are two members on each committee, each shall cast one-half of the votes allotted to their county. They may combine their votes in favor of one nominee or split their decision among two nominees. If only one committee member attends Thursday’s meeting and the other has not designated a proxy, then the member present is entitled to cast all the votes.

Based on population, Halifax County’s voting delegates can cast 191 total votes in Senate District 4. In succeeding order, the voting strength in the remaining counties are Hertford (75), Northampton (74), Bertie (66), Chowan (48), Perquimans (38) and Gates (35).

To win the Senate District 4 nomination, a candidate must collect a minimum of 264 votes (50 percent plus one). If none of the nominees meet the minimum threshold on the first ballot, the individual with the lowest vote total will be removed from the list and the balloting continues in this manner until one person collects 264 votes.

Hertford County (75) holds the voting strength in the House District 5 process. Bertie (66), Perquimans (38) and Gates (35) follow in order.

It takes 108 votes (50 percent plus one) to win the House nomination. The same rules apply as above if any of the nominees fail to meet the minimum threshold on the first ballot.

The names of the two winners will be forwarded to Gov. Easley who has seven days to officially make the appointments to fill the unexpired two-year terms of Rep. Hunter and Senator Holloman.

“This is how the Democratic process works to select our leaders,” Don Davis, Chairman of the 1st Congressional District Democratic Party, said as he presided over Monday’s meeting at RCCC.

Davis continued, “This is a very unique situation with two elected state officials passing away within hours of each other. Those untimely deaths left over 64,000 people in this region without representation. It’s our job to properly use the guidelines set before us to ensure that those people have a voice in Raleigh through their state legislators.”