The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

September 30, 2013

Candidates begin jockeying for seats; forum Tuesday


TARBORO — A word of advice to Edgecombe County citizens who do not live in Rocky Mount ...  Don't be confused by the "Vote Here" sign in front of the Edgecombe County Administration building. The sign is for citizens eligible to vote in Rocky Mount's upcoming election.  

Edgecombe's early voting begins at 8 a.m. on Oct. 17 and continues through 1 p.m. on Nov. 2. Only registered voters in Pinetops, Princeville and Tarboro  can participate in the early voting as the other municipalities in the county did not apply for the early voting dates, according to Edgecombe County Board of Elections director Jerry Spruell.

The General Election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

A candidate's forum is scheduled for  6 p.m. Thursday at Edgecombe Community College in Keihin Auditorium. All the candidates have been invited to attend. The event is sponsored by the Edgecombe County Human Relations Commission.

Campaign signs on the sides of the road are clues that candidates are beginning to aggressively jockey for their respective offices. In Edgecombe, 41 candidates are vying for 16 seats.

For the first time in more than two decades the race for the Tarboro mayor's seat will be contested. The seat was left vacant when Mayor Donald Morris abruptly resigned in August. Morris was three months away from serving 18 years as the mayor. Morris, who also served 14 years as a councilman, ran unopposed throughout his political career.    

Dating back to the 1970's and early 1980's, Mayor Moses Ray also ran unopposed for at least two terms. Ray died unexpectedly  in 1983. Morris was appointed to fill the vacancy and his legacy as the unopposed mayor began. Although Morris resigned, he had already announced that he would not seek reelection.  

Vying for the vacant seat will be Donnie Hale, Rick Page and John Wooten. Page is currently Ward 3 councilman while Hale and Wooten are testing the political arena for the first time.  

"I think that the citizens believed that the people who were in office were doing a respectful job," Spruell said. "That may have been the reason as to why they did not have any opposition."

During the Ray and Morris eras, the Tarboro council was known for its cohesive boards. Recent infighting on the council has somewhat tarnished that reputation. Apparently not pleased with the present board, four out of five seats for the upcoming election are contested. In Ward 1, incumbent Gerrelene Walker is being challenged by Carl Benson, Ward 5 incumbent Candis Owens is being challenged by former councilman John Jenkins and, in Ward 3, Steve Burnette, Leshaun Jenkins and Stephen Ribustello are vying for the  seat currently represented by Page.

Mayor Pro-Tem Taro Knight, Ward 7 council member, is running unopposed.

In Princeville, three candidates are challenging Incumbent Priscilla Everette-Oates for the mayor — Milton Bullock, Bobbie Jones and Theresa Williams.