LUMBERTON — Only minutes after he was declared the winner in Tuesday’s runoff election for the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, Berlester Campbell called for the supporters of his opponent to join him in his efforts to work in the best interest of all District 2 residents.
“I’m willing to sit down with them and break bread,” Campbell said. “We need to all work together to do what is in the best interest of the district.”
Campbell, a former county commissioner and resident of Fairmont, defeated incumbent Commissioner Hubert Sealey, who was elected to the board in 2002 in a close race with Campbell. There is no Republican on the ballot for District 2 in the November General Election, so Campbell will take his seat on the board in December.
In the run-off, Campbell garnered 826 votes to Sealey’s 638 votes. These totals included 243 early voting ballots cast for Campbell and 88 for Sealey, as well as six absentee ballots for Campbell and one absentee ballot for Sealey. According to the Robeson County Board of Elections, 9,793 county voters were eligible to cast ballots in the District 2 race, the only contest on Tuesday’s ballot. That put the turnout at about 16 percent.
Campbell was at the Board of Elections office in downtown Lumberton as the votes were tallied. Sealey was not present.
Sealey said this morning that while the election results were not what he had hoped, it was “not the end of the world.” He did not rule out that he may run again for county commissioner or another office.
“We worked hard while we were in there and accomplished a lot,” he said. “… I made two promises when I went into office. The first was that I would do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. The second is that I would never sell out … . I held on to both of them.”
Campbell expressed relief that the election is finally over.
“I am somewhat relieved that this election is over,”he said. “As far as I know, this election went off with no hitches or glitches. I want to thank all of those who voted for me, prayed for me, and worked for me.”
Campbell said Tuesday’s thunderstorms couldn’t keep supporters from voting.
“They want change and they even went out to the polls in the rain to get that change,” Campbell said.
As part of his campaign, Campbell had said that he would donate his $700 monthly stipend to a nonprofit in District 2. Sealey has defended the pay and benefits of the county commissioners, which, when combined, rank at the top of the state along with Durham County.
In the May 6 Democratic primary, Sealey, who also lives in Fairmont, finished second in a six-way race. He received 666 votes to Campbell’s 833 votes. Tuesday’s vote totals closely mirrored those from May.
Sealey was able to get a run-off election because none of the six candidates mustered 40 percent of the total votes cast.
According to Steve Stone, the chairman of the three-member Robeson County Board of Elections, there are 36 provisional ballots cast during the early voting period and less than a dozen provisional ballots cast at the polls Tuesday that will be counted when the canvassing and certification of votes takes place next week. There aren’t enough provisional ballots to change the outcome of the election.
According to Stone, any protests or challenges to the election must be filed by noon on Thursday.
The only remaining commissioner race is in District 6 between incumbent David Edge, a Republican, and challenger Mickey Meekins, a Democrat, in November. Board Chairman Noah Woods, the longest serving commissioner, barely won re-election in May over challenger Faline Locklear Dial to keep his District 4 seat, and incumbent Lance Herndon was unopposed in District 8.