Primary 2006: Blust downs Garwood; Shook gets GOP nod
By Scott Nicholson
Races in Tuesday’s primary elections were runaways for the most part, as winners got broad support across the county despite low voter turnout.
Watauga County commissioner David Blust of Foscoe soared in his first race for a state-level office, defeating five-term incumbent John Garwood of North Wilkesboro for the Republican nomination for the District 45 state senate seat.
Blust painted himself as more conservative than Garwood, portraying Garwood as playing a key role in allowing the education lottery to pass the General Assembly last year.
Blust said key endorsements, hard work and Garwood’s lack of a stand on the lottery issue contributed to the victory. He said he received support from several people who had formerly represented Wilkes County in the General Assembly, which helped him defeat Garwood on Garwood’s home turf. He also said the endorsement by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx was a major factor.
“More than anything, it was his (Garwood’s) waffling on a huge, controversial issue that bothered people,” Blust said Wednesday morning.
“Let your ‘yes’ be a ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be a ‘no.’ I heard that from people who supported the lottery and didn’t support the lottery. It just bothered people, especially anyone who had ever served in office.”
Blust also said he believed the district favored more conservative representation and said he’d been campaigning hard since December.
“I think it’s a referendum on a good, clean, solid campaign,” Blust said.
Blust dominated Garwood in Watauga County, winning 19 of 20 precincts, and carried the four-county district by 7,536 to 4,822 votes in unofficial returns. He will face Democrat Steve Goss in the fall.
In Watauga County, incumbent Sheriff Mark Shook won 19 of 20 precincts to top challenger Joe Moody, getting 81 percent of the vote on the Republican ticket.
Shook will face Democrat Len Hagaman in the fall. He said he was pleased by the broad support across the county and thanked his officers for their hard work.
“It’s an answered prayer,” Shook said. “It was the result of a lot of hard work by supporters.”
Incumbent Gene Wilson of Boone easily turned back challenger Dan Hense, who had changed his party affiliation in order to oppose Wilson for the District 93 N.C. House seat. Wilson carried every Watauga precinct in defeating Hense by a count of 4,380 to 1,277 votes in the district that also includes Ashe County. Wilson will face Democrat Cullie Tarleton in the fall.
In the first county-level races for two Democratic candidates, Mary Moretz defeated Doug McGuinn for the District 1 nomination for county commissioner.
In the school board primary, incumbent Lowell Younce was the top vote getter, followed by Ron Henries and incumbent Lee Warren. Alan Utter, Allen Trivette and Al Wheeler also earned places on the fall ballot, with Phil Smalling being bumped off the ballot by finishing seventh.
In the Fifth U.S. Congressional District, Watauga voters backed the top Democratic vote getter, Roger Sharpe, a former state senator from Harmony. Sharpe got 8,172 district-wide votes, followed by Roger Kirkman, Syndi Holmes and Mark Dulaney Glen. Sharpe got 46 percent of the votes in the 12-county district, avoiding a runoff, and will face incumbent Foxx in the General Election.
Moretz, who will face incumbent Keith Honeycutt in November, said she enjoyed the experience of her first campaign. A former political science teacher at Watauga High School, she said running was “different than learning from a textbook.
“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in both political parties,” she said. “Of course, I expect that, living in Watauga County.”
North Carolina voters selected Robin Hudson and Ann Marie Calabria in Tuesday’s five-person primary race for the chance to replace Associate Appeals Court Justice George Wainwright, who did not seek reelection to a second term. Hudson narrowly topped Calabria among Watauga County voters.
Two appellate court incumbents, Bob Hunter and Linda Stephens, easily advanced in their statewide races. Hunter will face second-place finisher Kris Bailey, and Stephens will match up with Donna Stroud. The two incumbents both won easily in Watauga.
Elections officials reported a smooth first election with new voting machines. The only problem was with some absentee ballots that had been folded or torn before being mailed in and were more difficult to feed into the scanning machine that tabulates the votes.
The Board of Elections will hold a state-mandated “hand-and-eye” county of two precincts on Monday at 9 a.m. to verify the success of the new machines. The canvass to make election returns official will be held on Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Watauga County voter turnout was 15 percent — 5,850 voters. The fall General Election will be held on Nov. 7.
To view vote totals by precinct, log on to www.wataugacounty.org/elections/index.html.