Judge Likely To Complete Ballance Term

Posted June 15, 2004 at 6:20pm

With the ballot now set for the July 20 special election to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.), former state Supreme Court Judge G.K. Butterfield (D) appears all but certain to be the next Congressman from the Tar Heel State.

On Monday night, 1st district Democrats nominated Butterfield as their candidate in the special election, while Republicans selected security consultant Greg Dority over the weekend. Both men were already running in primaries to succeed Ballance, who resigned his seat June 11 due to continuing health problems. He had already said he would not seek a second term because of his declining health.

Libertarian Tom Eisenmenger will also appear on the July 20 special election ballot, which will coincide with the party primaries for the November election.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the majority-black district by a 4-to-1 margin, making Butterfield the odds-on favorite to win the special election and the November general election, provided he wins the Democratic nod next month.

Butterfield and Dority’s appearance on two separate ballots next month could cause a potentially confusing situation for 1st district voters. Holding the elections on the same day will save taxpayers an estimated $500,000.

Butterfield, already the leading candidate in the race to succeed Ballance, is heavily favored over three Democratic primary opponents. Dority, the GOP nominee in 2002, is squaring off against Jerry Williford on the GOP side. Candidates must receive more than 40 percent of the vote in the primary to avoid an Aug. 17 runoff.

Butterfield was tapped as the special election candidate over Elizabeth City businessman Sam Davis, who is also running in the primary.

Davis expressed his unhappiness with the nomination process in a statement released Tuesday, in which he alleged that Butterfield and Ballance had “covertly coordinated” to ensure that Butterfield was his hand-picked successor.

“Just like in 2000 in Florida, a small group of powerful people have colluded to rig the outcome of a campaign,” Davis said. “It was wrong in Florida, and it is just as wrong here in eastern North Carolina. … I plan to hold G.K. Butterfield accountable for this shady approach to election politics.”

Davis, the only white candidate in the primary, took 26 percent of the vote and placed second behind Ballance in the 2002 Democratic primary.

Other Democrats running in the primary are East Carolina University professor Christine Fitch and attorney Darryl Smith.

Butterfield’s family roots run deep in eastern North Carolina, the area that the 1st district encompasses.

The 57-year-old former judge holds bachelor’s and law degrees from North Carolina Central University. He was drafted into the Army in 1968 and honorably discharged in 1970.

In 2001, Butterfield was appointed to the state Supreme Court by Gov. Mike Easley (D). He was defeated for re-election to the court in 2002.

Following that defeat, Easley appointed Butterfield as a Special Superior Court judge, a position he resigned on May 7 after filing to run for Congress.

Butterfield is currently vice president of the North Carolina Bar Association and is a past president of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers.