By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor
Thursday, May 8, 2014 —
Early indications suggest voters and taxpayers will be spared a Republican primary runoff for the county commission’s at-large seat.
Although Jann Lowder was the primary’s top vote getter among four GOP candidates vying for the commission’s at-large seat, the race failed to garner 40 percent plus one, allowing runner-up Matthew Swain the right to ask for a runoff.
Swain, a political newcomer, said Wednesday, however, that he will not request a runoff since it defies his platform of fiscal conservancy.
“After careful consideration today, with family and close supporters I have decided not to request a runoff election,” Swain said.
“I cannot in good conscious ask for a runoff that would cost more than $30,000 in tax payer money, after running on a campaign of using tax dollars in our county wisely and more efficiently. In two years another at-large seat will be open and I will hopefully be able to run again.”
Lowder, a former county commissioner, applauded Swain for his willingness to spare taxpayers the extra financial burden.
“I think it’s admirable for Matthew, keeping the costs down for the county’s citizens,” Lowder said.
Lowder garnered 1,920 votes, or 36.6 percent, to Swain’s 1,676 votes, or 32 percent. Heather Couick collected 914 votes with Art Burleson getting 727 to round out the ballot.
Swain has until noon Thursday to declare for a runoff. Kimberly Wilson, director of Board of Elections, confirmed Wednesday that the expense of a primary runoff would eclipse $30,000.
Lowder, still hoarse Wednesday from all the talking about the race, said her experience as a former commissioner likely made the difference in her victory.
“Probably some name recognition with my name having been on the ballot before, having served before, and my community involvement - all benefited my campaign,” Lowder said.
Her work is not done. She will face Debra Morgan, the Democrat winner for the same at-large seat, in November.
Morgan, a political newcomer, defeated county farmer Franklin Lee by a margin of 1,161 to 990.
“I pulled it out within the last minutes,” Morgan said.
“You just don’t know what the public is going to do. I’m overwhelmed and humbled. A lot of people have my back.”
Republicans Scott Efird and Bill Lawhon emerged victoriously in Tuesday’s primary, establishing them as county commissioners in District 1 and District 2, respectively. Neither has opposition in the fall, barring no successful write-in candidates.
Efird edged Mike Barbee by 466 votes.
Efird cited his experience as planner for the town of Locust as well as his years as the town’s mayor as contributors to his familiarity among voters. But, his victory over the equally popular Barbee, a current member on the Board of Education, was due to as much for his work ethic.
“I’ve been working hard since February,” Efird said.
“We kept it clean. It was a good race and I’m tickled to death.”
The two remained friendly throughout their campaigns.
“I told Scott ‘our families intertwined too much, I think you got some of my votes,’” Barbee said.
In addition to losing the race, Barbee encountered another hardship late Tuesday night while collecting campaign signs.
He stopped near the Endy Volunteer Fire Department to gather a sign in tall grass when he was bitten by a snake. Barbee said he first thought he had invaded fire ants, but when his hand began to swell and drip blood, he opted for treatment at Stanly Regional Medical Center. He remained there until 5 a.m. when the swelling dissipated. Barbee said he’s not sure what kind of snake bit him, but believes it was a copperhead.
“It just wasn’t my day, lost an election and got snake bit too,” Barbee said.
Running a similar grass roots effort as Efird, Lawhon said he had been going door-to-door during his campaign.
“I worked very hard and I will continue to work hard for all the citizens of Stanly County,” Lawhon said.
“I went to a lot of barbecues, volunteer fire departments, and door-to-door to businesses.”
Well known among businesses in Albemarle from his days as a local banker, Lawhon said he approached businesses in surrounding towns to introduce himself.
Not on the primary ballot but contested in November, incumbent Commissioner Gene McIntyre will face Democrat Richard Almond for District 4 while Republican Joseph L. Burleson will square off against Democrat Phil Burris.
To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or at email@example.com.