Recount Likely After N.C. Runoff

Posted August 18, 2004 at 12:01pm

State Sen. Virginia Foxx (R) beat back an aggressive challenge from Winston-Salem City Council Member Vernon Robinson (R) in North Carolina’s 5th district runoff Tuesday, bringing an end to one of the ugliest primary races of the cycle.

But Tuesday’s balloting may not have brought closure to the 10th district race to succeed retiring Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.).

State Rep. Patrick McHenry appears to have beaten Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman by a slim 128 votes in the GOP runoff, but Huffman is expected to request a recount.

Both Foxx and the eventual 10th district GOP nominee are expected to have little trouble winning in November as both open-seat districts heavily favor Republicans.

Foxx topped Robinson 55 percent to 45 percent in the runoff, which was forced after no candidate topped 50 percent in an eight-way July 20 primary. On Tuesday night, Robinson pledged to help elect the state lawmaker, who he said had “out-hustled” his campaign in the runoff.

The runoff, like the primary, was characterized by nasty rhetoric, negative personal attacks and unfounded charges — most of which were circulated by Robinson.

Robinson, who billed himself as the black version of conservative former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), ran ads comparing Foxx to New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. He also ran controversial radio and television ads focused on the issue of illegal immigration.

Foxx, meanwhile, claimed that Robinson’s divisive style would jeopardize the party’s ability to hold the safe GOP seat in November. First elected to the state Senate in 1994, she now faces dentist Jim Harrell Jr. (D) in the general election.

The 5th district seat is being vacated by Rep. Richard Burr (R), who is running for Senate.

In the 10th district, Huffman has said he will request a recount since the final vote margin appears to be well under the 1 percent threshold needed for a runner-up to call for a recount.

“With the margin (so small), I feel I owe it to the people to see it to the end,” he told supporters at his campaign headquarters Tuesday night.

During the runoff Huffman portrayed McHenry as a political opportunist and carpetbagger who moved into the district just to run for Congress. He also ran ads accusing McHenry of throwing wild parties at his house.

Huffman, 58, has been sheriff for 22 years. He faced questions about his campaign finances during the runoff and eventually admitted a Federal Election Commission reporting mistake.

McHenry, a 28-year-old freshman lawmaker, garnered the support of Ballenger, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) and other key Republicans in the district.

Ballenger had backed businessman Sandy Lyons (R) in the first round of balloting last month. Lyons finished third in the primary. He and fourth place finisher George Moretz endorsed McHenry in the runoff.

McHenry, provided that he is certified as the eventual nominee, will face Democrat Anne Fischer in November.

Elsewhere in Tuesday’s balloting, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) handily defeated four primary opponents and is expected to cruise to a sixth term representing the state’s lone House seat this fall.

Cubin captured 55 percent of the Republican vote.

Cheyenne attorney Bruce Asay came in second with 25 percent and state Sen. Cale Case got 16 percent of the vote in the most crowded primary Cubin has faced since first winning the seat when it was open in 1994.

Although the Equality State elected a Democratic governor in 2002, Cubin’s opponent in November has his work cut out for him in a state that overwhelmingly favors Republicans on the federal level.

Democrat Ted Ladd got 47 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary and won the right to face Cubin on the November ballot.

Cubin won re-election with 67 percent and 61 percent in 2000 and 2002, respectively.

Nicole Duran contributed to this report.