Elect 2012: Watt sets sights on Brosch, Cecil for 12th District seat
By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., coasted to a solid victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, outdistancing Charlotte challenger Matt Newton.
Watt will face Republican Jack Brosch and Libertarian Lon Cecil in the November election for the U.S. House 12th District seat in North Carolina.
Throughout the vote counting Tuesday night, Watt consistently led Newton with roughly 80 percent of the vote. The Associated Press called the race for Watt by 8:29 p.m., less than an hour after the polls closed.
Watt was first elected in 1992 and is the only person to ever hold the 12th District seat. In the quiet, congenial primary campaign, Watt touted his experience, seniority and what he considers is his proven track record.
A Charlotte attorney, Newton left the Occupy Charlotte movement in January and helped to establish the People’s Coalition of the Carolinas. Tuesday night, he immediately gave his endorsement to Watt for November.
“He’s got my vote,” Newton said. “We’re on the same team.”
The 12th District, whose lines have been redrawn by the N.C. General Assembly, includes parts of Rowan, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Cabarrus and Davidson counties.
Rowan County has 42,641 people in the 12th District, or just more than 30 percent of the county’s population. But Rowan represents only 5.8 percent of the 12th District’s total population. Mecklenburg and Guilford counties account for more than 75 percent.
In Rowan County, Watt outpolled Newton 2,118 to 684, or 76 to 24 percent.
As of 10:20 p.m. Tuesday, Watt led in all six counties of his district with 81 percent of the vote, but final totals were not in.
During the primary campaign, Watt said he was one of the few people in Congress who has tried to reach across party lines to make things work, though he expressed frustration with the strong partisan divide and lack of action in Washington.
Newton said their primary race was an example of how political races can be run cleanly.
A first-time candidate, Newton said he wasn’t sure whether he would run again for public office.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s still all sinking in. I enjoy campaigning. I enjoy talking with members of the community and seeking solutions. I don’t think I’m going to lose that passion.
“But it is such an emotional and financial investment.”
Newton, 32, said he ran on a shoe-string budget.
“And I mean shoe-string,” he added.
Newton said he hopes his candidacy gives other people the courage to become involved.
Watt, 66, says Congress can help with creating jobs in the private sector through trade, tax and innovation policies. He complains that the growing disparity between rich and poor is largely a function of tax policy. He says the country no longer has the progressive tax system it once relied on, in which richer people provided greater support.
The 12th District touches 11 precincts in Rowan County, including five in Salisbury — West Wards I, II and III, South Ward and East Ward. Other U.S. House 12th District precincts in the county are West Enochville (Enochville Elementary), Sumner (the Rowan County Ag Building off Old Concord Road), Spencer, East Spencer, South Locke (Locke Fire Department on N.C. 150) and Bradshaw (Atwell Fire Department on N.C. 152).
Here were the Rowan precinct totals for Watt and Newton Tuesday:
• Bradshaw — Watt, 134; Newton, 120.
• South Locke — Watt, 176; Newton, 95.
• East Spencer — Watt, 186; Newton, 8.
• Spencer — Watt, 237; Newton, 75.
• Sumner — Watt, 114; Newton, 66.
• West Ward I — Watt, 166; Newton, 33.
• West Ward II — Watt, 236; Newton, 78.
• West Ward III — Watt, 176; Newton, 9.
• South Ward — Watt, 284; Newton, 55.
• East Ward — Watt, 336; Newton, 56.
• West Enochville — Watt, 73; Newton, 89.
• Total votes in Rowan — Watt, 2,118; Newton, 684.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.
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