Offended Democrat says Cobb should concede raceWashington Daily News, NC January 5, 2005
By Jonathan Clayborne, News Editor
Some county officials -- not many, but their voices are loud -- are venting frustrations about the projected costs of a new election to end the running dispute about who should be the next North Carolina commissioner of agriculture.
With the financial bottom line blaring, one steamed Democratic county commissioner even said the Democratic candidate for whom he voted in November should concede the race to his Republican opponent.
The State Board of Elections has called for a new election for agriculture commissioner because of 4,438 "lost," electronically cast votes in Carteret County.
As exhaustively reported by The Associated Press and other news organizations, incumbent Democrat Britt Cobb appeared to lose the election to Republican challenger Steve Troxler by slightly more than 2,200 votes -- in the absence of the Carteret problem.
Some Republicans fear a new statewide election could swing the election in Cobb's favor, and they imply that was the hope of the State Board of Elections' Democrats. The law demands a new election, some Democrats counter.
Local governments and, ultimately, taxpayers will absorb the new election costs.
Officials on both sides predict dismal turnout for that new election, which may take place in March or April.
Cobb's attorneys argued a new election would be fair and legal, but Troxler's side wanted a "revote" only for Carteret County voters whose ballots were not counted because of a machine error.
A judge wouldn't allow a Carteret-focused election, paving the way to a reopened, statewide contest.
The new statewide election will cost the state's 100 counties millions, with perhaps the biggest expense being pay for poll workers. The expenses will be incurred near the end of the counties' fiscal year, when revenues are catching up to budgeted expenses and local officials are hoping a little extra money will shake out of the coffers.
Newly elected Democratic Martin County Commissioner Al Perry said he voted for Cobb in the last election, but he won't vote for the incumbent when the new election is held this spring.
Perry called on Cobb to concede.
"He got whipped," Perry stated.
To Perry, the issue is cost. He was joined in a telephone interview by Democrat Mort Hurst, the Martin County commissioners' chairman. Hurst concurred with Perry's cost-centered concern.
"I'm looking at cost," Perry said. "I'm not looking at two different people or two different parties. I'm looking at being conservative."
A new election could cost Martin County more than $16,000, Hurst reported, after confirming that number through Faye Martin, elections director.
The county is strapped for cash and shouldn't have to pay for Carteret County's mistake, Hurst asserted, adding that the state should cover the cost of the new election.
"We did our election right," Hurst said. "Our votes were counted right."
Hurst acknowledged his sentiments might not be well received by some Democrats.
"It's not a very popular thing for a Democrat to say, but I personally don't care," he added.
The new election may cost Beaufort County $12,000 to $15,000, according to Kellie Hopkins, elections director.
Hopkins will ask her commissioners to approve a budget amendment to cover the county's share.
"My big thing is going to be poll workers," she said. "That's where I'll need the money, is my poll workers."
The county likely will work with a minimum of three poll workers per precinct, Hopkins reported. On average, Beaufort County's poll workers make $7 an hour, she said.
Other costs may be absorbed through the existing elections budget, Hopkins related. Yet, she still was busy calculating the costs of the last election and wasn't sure how much money was left in her department's budget.
Earl Tetterton, the Beaufort County commissioners' chairman, said he hadn't formed an opinion on the special election issue, though he did say he was concerned about the cost.
"It's one of those things you can't do anything about," Tetterton stated. "It's up to somebody else."
When pressed, Tetterton, a Republican, let it be known that the candidate who received the most votes -- Troxler, in his view -- should have been declared the victor.
The election will cost Washington County about $4,500, said Grace Peck, elections director. Peck already had alerted the county manager and finance officer to the originally unbudgeted expense.
Hyde County's cost could reach $3,000 to $4,000, according to Cindy Carawan, elections director. Hyde County's commissioners also will have to approve an amendment for the expense, Carawan reported.