Mobley is surprise choice

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 19, 2007

WINDSOR – In sports terms it would be considered an upset.

A political novice defeated three long-time elected officials here Thursday night.

Annie W. Mobley, who has never held political office, secured the nomination of the Democratic Executive Committee to succeed Howard J. Hunter Jr. in representing North Carolina House District 5.

In securing the nomination, Mobley defeated Hertford County Commissioner Howard J. Hunter III, Winfall Mayor Fred Yates and Windsor Commissioner Hoyt Cooper.

In all, five people were nominated to fill the post left vacant with Hunter’s passing last week.

The first nomination came from Perquimans County committee member Janice Cole, who put forward Hunter’s name, calling him “electable” and someone who has a vested interest in the region.

Fellow Perquimans County Democrat Sharon Gordon, who is from Winfall, then nominated Yates, who serves as her town’s mayor. She said he had devoted his life to making the area better and would do the same for the district.

Kitty Riddick of Bertie County then put forward Cooper’s name for the seat. She indicated she had approached him about filling the vacancy and stressed his years of leadership in the area.

Hertford County’s Sang Hamilton then nominated Mobley and Alvin Basnight, but said he would let them introduce themselves.

Hunter’s experience has been as a Hertford County Commissioner, where he serves as vice chairman of the board. He is also the son of the late Howard Hunter Jr. Cooper is a Windsor Commissioner who serves as a pastor in Scotland Neck while Yates has served 14 years as mayor of Winfall. He ran against Hunter Jr. twice and was defeated on both occasions in a race for House District 5. Basnight is a retiring adult probation officer while Mobley is retired, but serves as Director of the R.L. Vann Community Resource Center, Inc.

After their nominations, the each of the candidates was allowed three minutes to address the committee. During that time, Mobley admitted she was not ready to make promises about what she would do if elected.

“I can’t make promises about what I will do because I don’t know,” Mobley told the Executive Committee following her nomination.

Mobley also appealed to the seven women and one man on the committee to send a woman to Raleigh and make political history in the process.

After four ballots and a number of maneuverings in their closed-door meetings, the process ended with the committee choosing that exact path.

When the committee cast their first vote for the office, all five candidates received votes. That tally showed Hunter with 74, Mobley with 65.5, Cooper with 33, Yates with 31 and Basnight with 10.5.

Hunter’s votes came from Paulette Wester (Gates County), Evelyn Rawls (Hertford County) and Cole (Perquimans County).

Mobley support came from Martha Thompson (Bertie County), Marsha Langston (Gates County) and a partial vote from Hamilton.

The support from Cooper came from Riddick while Yates’ support came from Gordon and a partial vote of Hamilton. All of Basnight’s votes came from Hamilton.

After tallying the vote, Chairman Don Davis declared no one had received the necessary half-plus-one majority to be elected and officially eliminated Basnight as the lowest vote-getter.

On roll call number two, all votes remained the same except Hamilton who switched his 10.5 votes cast for Basnight to Mobley.

After that ballot, Mobley had 76 votes, Hunter tallied 74, Cooper had 33 and Yates had 31 votes. Davis again declared there was no winner and removed Yates from the ballot.

Mobley was nearly elected on the next ballot, falling one vote shy of the necessary 108 to win when Gordon and Hamilton each cast their entire allotment to her. None of the other votes changed.

After the third ballot, Mobley had 107 votes, Hunter 74 and Cooper 33. Davis again declared there was no winner and eliminated Cooper.

On the next ballot, Riddick moved her 33 votes that she cast three times for Cooper to Mobley, giving her the necessary votes to win the nomination. No other votes changed, leaving Mobley with 140 votes and Hunter with 74.

After the outcome was clear, Cole and Wester agreed to change their votes to Mobley for the sake of “unity.” Rawls did not change the votes she cast for Hunter.

“We’ve made history today,” Mobley said after being introduced as the appointee. “I’m not sure there has ever been a female representative from Hertford County.”

Mobley then thanked Hamilton for his nomination and the members of the committee who supported her.

“I’ve learned more about the process than I can imagine,” she said.

Mobley said she was a “share-cropper’s daughter” who had gone on to serve in several capacities which had helped make her aware of the improprieties people had to suffer.

“I know the economic disparities in the state of North Carolina,” she said.

The representative-to-be then said her husband accused her of being a workaholic and said she was willing to go and serve.

“You’ve chosen me and I’m going to do the very best I can,” she said. “I promise you I won’t disappoint you.”

A retiree, Mobley admitted she had been asked how long she would serve and said she did not know if it would be five hours or 15 years because “the almighty decides that.”

“What I promise is I will do my best to serve for however long it is,” she said.

Mobley went on to say she believed it was “God’s will” that she be chosen.

“I believe my arrival to this podium now is God’s will and I am crazy enough to know his will has been done. Grace will be my protection.”