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County Commissioner Melvin McLawhorn is seeking re-election.
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County Commissioner Melvin McLawhorn is seeking re-election.

Unopposed candidates work to get out the vote

By Ginger Livingston

The Daily Reflector

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Most candidates who are unopposed this November are not sitting out the election cycle.

They are driving people to the polls, campaigning at early voting sites and attending candidate reforms. They are reminding people every vote counts, not only in the presidential contest but also in their community races.

Pitt County has seven unopposed races: two state Senate, one state House, a county commissioner, the register of deeds and two nonpartisan district court judges.

Incumbent Melvin McLaw-horn is running unopposed for Pitt County Board of Commissioners Seat A after facing an opponent in the May Democratic primary. McLawhorn is running for his third term.

“I started with the first day of early voting taking people to the polls,” McLawhorn said. “I think it’s critical we take everybody we can to the polls to vote and if they need to, to register and then vote.”

People have told McLawhorn they noticed he was running unopposed.

“I let them know it’s because of their vote in the primary that I was able to win and didn’t have competition in the general election,” he said. “I let them know I appreciate it.”

That’s why McLawhorn is attending forums sponsored by local community groups.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking their vote for granted,” he said. “I want to hear (the voters’) concerns.”

Among the unopposed candidates is Pitt County’s new state representative, Jean Farmer-Butterfield of Wilson. Farmer-Butterfield’s House District 24 was reconfigured during redistricting to include portions of Pitt and Wilson counties. She previously served portions of Wilson and Edgecombe counties.

Farmer-Butterfield said she has spent the spring and summer visiting churches and civic clubs and attending events held by the local branch of the NAACP and Pitt County Democratic Women. She also sponsored a job fair at Pitt Community College.

“The biggest thing is getting to know the community and learning where places are, learning the geography of the district,” she said.

“There are those who don’t know me at all, but I hope they will get to know me,” she said.

When she was first elected, she would hold monthly community meetings in Rocky Mount to learn more about the people and their concerns.

“I plan to try to start the same thing in Pitt County, come over on a Saturday once a month where we can meet,” she said. Farmer-Butterfield said she hopes a church or community group will donate a meeting space.

Farmer-Butterfield already has been meeting with elected officials and community leaders.

Farmer-Butterfield is completing her fifth term. She is the senior director of the corporate guardianship program of The Arc of North Carolina.

Legislative redistricting placed Pitt County in two redesigned state Senate districts.

Incumbent Republican Louis M. Pate Jr. is running unopposed for re-election in District 7, which encompasses portions of Pitt, Lenoir and Wayne counties.

While unopposed, Pate spent Friday campaigning outside early-voting sites in Wayne and Lenoir counties and was planning on visiting Greenville on Saturday.

“I think it’s important to keep your name out in front of the voters,” Pate said. “There are people who are voting now who are voting for the first time, and I want them to know who I am.”

Pate also has maintained his election website so voters can view his work in the General Assembly.

Pate also is supporting other Republican candidates by attending fundraisers and local party events.

Pate served four years in the state House before running unsuccessfully in 2008 for the Senate. He returned to the General Assembly in 2010 when Republicans won both chambers.

Pate defeated sitting state senator Don Davis in 2010. Redistricting changes allowed Davis to run in a newly created Senate District 5, which includes all of Greene and portions of Wayne, Lenoir and Pitt counties.

“My efforts have been focused on voter turnout,” Davis said. “I want to encourage as many residents as possible to exercise their right to vote. I believe this is a critical election, and the stakes are high.”

While he also is introducing himself to voters in new areas of the district, Davis said he wants people to know his concern about the community doesn’t stop at a line on a map.

“My philosophy before was you don’t go in to represent a piece of a county, you represent all the residents of Pitt County,” Davis said.

Deborah Barrington is running for the register of deeds for the first time after her 2009 appointment to the office.

The register of deeds maintains the county’s land records such as deeds, leases and easements, along with records of marriages, births, deaths and divorces.

“Being unopposed has given me more time to maintain good, quality service to the public and my office,” Barrington said. “I have been attending and speaking at various political functions and making myself very visible to the public.”

Two candidates who have been keeping lower profiles are District Court Judges David A. Leech and G. Galen Braddy.

Pitt County has one contested district court race, said Braddy, who is completing his third, four-year term on the bench. He has been keeping a lower profile because he did not want to distract voters from that race.

“It’s a privilege and honor to serve Pitt County,” he said. “People see me every day and I hope they feel they are receiving good service from the bench.”

Leech, completing his sixth term on the bench, is the county’s chief district court judge.

“I hope people, when they see my name on the ballot, will have confidence that I am doing a good job, and I am still capable of doing a good job.”


Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.


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