The fundraising contest this summer between Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Maj. James “Clem” Clemmons and Republican candidate Doug Brown was dominated by Clemmons, while Democrat state legislature candidates also cashed in throughout the summer.
Monday morning, 59-year-old Richmond County resident Kenneth Steen cast only the second ballot of his life at the county election office polling station in Rockingham. His first was in the 2010 primary.
“(The Richmond County sheriff’s race) is the only one that made me want to vote,” he said.
For the first time in 16 years, and only the second in more than 50 years, there is no incumbent in the race for the county’s top law enforcement position since Sheriff Dale Furr announced last year he wouldn’t seek reelection.
Furr served four terms after the late R.W. Goodman held the post for 44 years.
During the primary, Clemmons defeated three fellow Democrats while garnering about twice as many votes as any other candidate with 42 percent of the ballots cast.
Brown faced a primary challenge by fellow Republican Georgia Cagle and got more than 60 percent of the vote.
The race also generated the most campaign-spending for the last quarter, which ended on June 30. Candidates are required to complete third quarter financial reports next week.
Clemmons has been responsible for the bulk of the fundraising and spending between the two candidates.
Through June 30, his campaign spent about $18,770, and still had more than $1,100 on-hand.
Brown’s campaign reported about $3,500 in spending during the same time period and had $75 left on-hand when the report was filed.
County Commission candidate Don Bryant was the big-spender among the remaining field for November’s election through the end of the second quarter.
Bryant spent $2,358 through June 30. Of the four Democrats on the ballot in November, Bryant is the only challenger, along with incumbents Pam Dillman, Jimmy Maske and Thad Ussery.
Voters will choose between them and Republican Ben Moss to fill the four seats available.
Moss had the least spending among the five, at about $200 through the end of the second quarter. He ran unopposed in the Republican primary for county commission.
Maske’s campaign reported spending about $1,560 through June 30, while Ussery’s campaign brought in about $3,770 and spent $3,600. Dillman’s campaign brought in more than $2,300 through June 30, while it spent about $1,950.
In the race for the North Carolina House of Representatives seat for Richmond and Montgomery counties, Rockingham resident Ken Goodman (D) began to distance himself from Candor Republican James Parsons in the fundraising department.
Through June 30, the Goodman campaign raised about $27,000, but had only spent about $5,600. Parsons campaign failed to raise $2,000 during the same period.
The house race also features no incumbent. N.C. Rep. Melanie Wade Goodwin announced she wouldn’t seek reelection last year.
N.C. Sen. Bill Purcell, a Democrat, of Laurinburg is seeking reelection, and is being challenged by Republican candidate Jason Phibbs of Albemarle.
Through June 30, Purcell’s campaign reported more than $36,750 in expenditures, while retaining more than $22,000 on-hand.
Phibbs’ campaign reported raising more than $12,000 through June 30, while spending more than $5,780 and retaining the rest.
The May primary brought out more than 3,700 early voters, but early voting for the general election appears it will eclipse that total through three days.
After three days during the spring early voting period about 720 voters turned out, while 970 had already shown up by mid-day Monday, the third day of early voting for the general election.
By the end of early voting for the primary, Richmond County counted more than 3,700 ballots cast early.
County Elections Director Connie Kelly said things have been busy at the county’s lone early voting polling station on Hancock Street in Rockingham.
“Right now, we’re on pace to have even more early voters than we did in the primary,” she explained.
Some see the increased turnout for early voting as a statewide trend.
Democracy North Carolina reports more than 72,000 voters have turned out early, more than twice the total for the first three days of the last mid-term national election in 2006.
The number is much lower than the number of voters who turned out in the first three days of the 2008 general election, when more than 266,000 voted early.
The non-partisan organization said white Republican males are constituting more of the growth in early voting, whereas African-American female Democrats were the most represented population during early voting in 2008.
North Carolina turned blue in November 2008, breaking a decades-long trend of going for the Republican presidential candidate. During this year’s mid-term elections, some Republicans have placed an emphasis on congressional races in North Carolina to retain their majority in both houses of Congress.
“Early voting doesn’t favor one party or another, but reveals who’s most organized and enthusiastic,” Democracy North Carolina Director Bob Hall said.
In Richmond County, however, Kelly said there has been considerable interest in the procedures and guidelines that govern the election process, but no larger turnout at the polls.
“I don’t see any change in the demographics of early voters this election cycle,” Kelly said. “I think we’re seeing a lot of the same dynamics of who is showing up for early voting as we saw during the primary.”
She noted Republicans have expressed interest in serving as observers for the election.
The 2010 Richmond County ballot features contested races for sheriff, county commissioner and state and federal legislature seats.
Races featuring candidates running unopposed include the district attorney and clerk of court.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.