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Donnan wins labor commissioner primary in light voting

RALEIGH ó State labor commissioner candidate Mary Fant Donnan won the Democratic primary runoff Tuesday, putting her on the ballot for a November challenge of Republican incumbent Cherie Berry.
Donnan defeated John Brooks weeks after failing to get enough votes to win the nomination outright in the May 6 primary. She had 68 percent of the vote with 95 percent of precincts reporting.
“I’m very excited, and this positions me well for the fall,” Donnan said. “Voters are ready for and responded well to the message that there needs to be an emphasis on better supports for working families and small business.”
In Rowan County, Donnan led the ballot with 359 votes compared to Brooks’ 130 votes. A total of 491 votes were cast, representing a total voter turnout of about 1.52 percent.
The Mt. Ulla precinct had the highest turnout with 3.42 percent, while Rock Grove had the lowest with .22 percent. Chief judges from the county’s 48 precincts began arriving at the Rowan County Board of Elections office with vote totals at 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, with the last chief judge reporting in at 8:45.
David Nelson, chief judge of West Ward No. 3, said, “What we did today was very labor-intensive ó Secretary of Labor, and all the labor we put in to get 17 votes.”
Elsewhere in the state, there were also runoffs for two local legislative races.
Justin Burr defeated Rep. Ken Furr in the GOP primary for the 67th House District covering Stanly, Union and Montgomery counties. Furr was appointed last August to succeed Rep. David Almond, who resigned. He faces no opposition in November.
Snow Hill Mayor Don Davis triumphed in his race against State Board of Education member Kathy Taft in the Democratic contest for the 5th Senate District covering Greene, Pitt and Lenoir counties. Davis takes on outgoing Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, in November to succeed retiring Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne,
Turnout for the primary was light, with about 62,000 votes counted in the only statewide race. That compares with the nearly 1.6 million people, or 37 percent of all registered voters, that cast ballots in last month’s primary that featured the Democratic presidential showdown between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
“It might be the election officials who are the largest bloc of voters,” state elections director Gary Bartlett said Tuesday, calling activity at the nearly 3,000 precincts statewide “extremely slow.”
Donnan, a program officer at the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, finished first in the four-person party primary but failed to get the more than 40 percent of the vote required to avoid a runoff with Brooks, the commissioner from 1977 to 1993.
Both argued that Berry, who is seeking her third four-year term, has failed to protect North Carolina workers adequately or push for more apprenticeship training.
Donnan, 46, worked in the labor department from 1994 to 2001. She received the endorsements of the third- and fourth-place finishers in the primary, as well as the state AFL-CIO.
If elected, she said she would be more active in recommending labor law changes to the General Assembly and promote a collaborative culture of leadership and problem-solving in the department.
Brooks, 71, talked up his own experience as a commissioner as the best reason he should win the nomination. Currently an attorney at the N.C. Industrial Commission, Brooks said reducing workplace injuries under his watch would save billions of dollars for the state, the injured and business.

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