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Caskey, Pierce advance out of GOP county commissioners primary

Love falls short

ALLISON LEE ISLEY/SALISBURY POST Johnny Love consoles his wife as they wait for the results of Election Day at the Rowan County Administrative Offices in Salisbury on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

ALLISON LEE ISLEY/SALISBURY POST Johnny Love consoles his wife as they wait for the results of Election Day at the Rowan County Administrative Offices in Salisbury on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

Rowan County’s two incumbent commissioners will advance to November’s general election after securing victories in Tuesday’s Republican Party primary.

Incumbent Commissioner Mike Caskey, a police officer, finished first and received 40.65 percent of the votes. Incumbent Commissioner Craig Pierce, a business owner, finished second and received 31.67 percent of the votes. Sheriff’s deputy and business owner Johnny Love received 27.68 percent of the vote and fell short of advancing past the primary.

Caskey and Pierce are both currently serving their first term on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

The margin between Pierce and Love isn’t enough for a recount, according to Rowan Elections Director Nancy Evans.

Caskey carried a large majority of Rowan County’s precincts and finished first. He was first among commissioner candidates throughout the night, but said finishing first wasn’t especially important to him.

“I guess it’s significant,” Caskey said. “I appreciate that I got the most votes, but I think it was more important that I made it.”

He said commissioners will continue to focus on economic development in Rowan County.

“There’s a lot of work that we can do, but I think it all falls around the economy,” Caskey said. “Accomplishing the economic development that we’re working on and trying to push forward is really key. It will increase our tax base so we can invest in things like emergency services.”

Pierce was second throughout the night, but occasionally dipped close to Love’s vote total. Pierce finished first and second in more precincts than Love. However, Love received significant support from voters in the city of Salisbury. Salisbury voters supported Caskey, but seemed to favor Love over Pierce.

When asked about the election results, Pierce placed emphasis on Love’s support in the city of Salisbury.

“The county vote is what made me get through this election,” Pierce said. “It shows me the true citizens of Rowan County continue to support what I’m doing. If it chaps the people of downtown Salisbury, then so be it.”

A Facebook page named “Concerned Citizens of Rowan County” took aim specifically at Pierce just before the election. The page criticized Pierce by using videos and previous statements from Pierce’s time in office.

Pierce said his focus is trying to expand Rowan County’s tax base through economic development.

“I’m here to support the county and do everything I possibly can to bring jobs and economic stability,” Pierce said. “If I do that for the county, Salisbury will benefit. They need to quit this assault they’ve made on me.”

When reached Tuesday night, Love started by saying he wanted to congratulate Caskey and Pierce on a good race. Love said “everyone was admirable in the way they presented themselves.”

“Of course I’m disappointed, but that’s just part of it,” Love said. “I do hope that Craig and Mike both, if they win the general election, will work hard to move Rowan County forward and add jobs to the county. Those things, jobs and economic progress, are the two things we need the most.”

The third-place finish is the second straight time Love has come just short of advancing past the Republican primary. In 2014, he finished one spot behind incumbent County Commissioner Judy Klusman.

When asked if he has plans to run for another political office, Love said, “don’t count me out.”

Caskey and Pierce will now face Democrat Veleria Levy and Libertarian Mark Lyerly in the general election for county commissioner.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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