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May 9, 2014

Burris vs. Burris for rematch

Thursday, May 8, 2014 — Election Day for the Stanly County sheriff’s race will be a repeat of the 2010 contest.

Incumbent Rick Burris defeated Cameron Speights for the Democratic bid while George T. Burris emerged victorious from a logjam of Republican candidates. Their respective victories put the two men on a collision course for the county’s top cop in November.

With most of the county’s voters opting to participate in the Republican primary because of the larger number of contested races, Rick Burris amassed 74 percent of the Democratic vote to defeat Speights by a margin of 1,658 to 574.

Sheriff Burris said Democrat voters appreciated his long commitment to the party.

“I’ve been a Democrat all my life and he changed his party affiliation in September. I don’t think that helped him,” Rick Burris said.

In what some thought would lead to a possible runoff because of four GOP candidates vying for the chance to become sheriff, George T. Burris doused that prospect by garnering 50 percent of the vote with 2,790 votes, significantly more than runner-up and former sheriff Tony Frick at 1,409 votes.

Frick has twice lost re-election campaigns since serving as sheriff for two terms before losing to Rick Burris in 2006.

Michael Whaley collected 800 votes, ahead of Melvin B. Poole’s 565 votes. George T. Burris’ margin of victory was nearly as much as the third and fourth place finishers combined.

Poole, the only candidate without law enforcement experience, said he does not take the defeat personally.

“I’m always happy with what the people want,” Poole said.

“I don’t see this as a vote against me. I see this as a vote to keep me on the school board.”

Poole and Mike Barbee are both active members on the school board who sought other elected office. Barbee lost his bid to become county commissioner.

George T. Burris attributed his victory to teamwork and a wealth of support.

“The way people turned out tells me they’re ready for a positive change,” George T. Burris said.

“It’s getting me excited about November.”

He added that having run in 2010 when he ultimately lost to Rick Burris by 143 votes, which called for a recount, helped him in terms of name recognition as well as how to effectively campaign.

“I’ve learned how to run a professional and proactive campaign,” he said.

For the primary, George T. Burris said he visited neighborhoods and listened to residents’ concerns, finding that neighbors prefer community policing.

Rick Burris said the job of sheriff amounts to campaigning every day.

The only remaining Democrat to hold elected office in Stanly County and the first sheriff hopeful to win three consecutive terms since Ralph McSwain’s 28 years on the job, Rick Burris remains optimistic about his chances.

Unlike the primary whereby the majority voters chose to partake in the GOP primary, there will be only one ballot in the fall. No longer will voters be allowed to pull straight party tickets.

“During the last election, 8,000 Republicans voted straight ticket,” he said.

“That there put me behind 8,000 votes and I overcame that by the grace of God.”

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or at ritchie@stanlynewspress.com.

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