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Graham, Wooten win Pasquotank sheriff primaries

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Democratic candidate for Pasquotank County sheriff Eddy Graham speaks to supporters outside the K.E. White Center polling station, Tuesday morning.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Democrat Eddie Graham and Republican Tommy Wooten won their respective primaries for Pasquotank sheriff on Tuesday, based on unofficial results, setting up a general election contest this fall to succeed Randy Cartwright, who is retiring after six terms.

Graham, a sergeant in the Elizabeth City Police Department and the only candidate not working for the sheriff’s department, finished first in the four-candidate Democratic primary, carrying four of the county’s nine precincts; large leads in the South and West precincts put him over the top. He collected 1,319 votes or 40.1 percent of the total cast.

Graham defeated Sheriff’s Lt. Brent McKecuen, who finished in a close second with 1,283 votes or 39 percent. Graham also won despite retiring Sheriff Randy Cartwright endorsing McKecuen.

Todd Wagner, a sheriff’s sergeant finished third with 413 votes or 12.6 percent, while Tobie McPherson, a sheriff’s patrol deputy, finished fourth with 273 votes or 8.3 percent.

Wooten, a sheriff’s sergeant, bested Ward, a sheriff’s lieutenant, winning seven of nine precincts. Wooten won 882 votes, or 53.8 percent, to Ward’s 757, or 46.2 percent.

Turnout for Tuesday’s primary was 17.8 percent.

For many Pasquotank voters on Tuesday, choosing the right person for sheriff was a top priority. In the Republican primary on election day, Ward appeared to win a lot of support.

Just after voting in the Providence precinct at Pasquotank County High School, Richard Green said he chose Ward over Wooten. He said he liked Ward's experience and his reputation.

Another Providence voter, Jack Tidler, said he voted for Ward as well. He said he had worked with Ward at the Albemarle District Jail for 20 years, and liked how Ward handled himself. He also said he hoped the next sheriff would make combating drug abuse and gun violence his top priorities.

Asking her name be withheld, a voter in Elizabeth City East precinct at River Road Middle School also said she chose Ward. Based on everything she read, he seemed like the better candidate, she said.

Billy Brown also said he voted for Ward, commenting he knew him and thought he'd be a good sheriff.

Jan Bertaut, chose Wooten, however. After voting at PCHS, she said Wooten spoke at a luncheon she attended, she liked what she heard.

“He sold me on himself,” she said. “He's just a good family man.”

Wooten nevertheless remained upbeat while campaigning outside Evangelical Methodist Church off U.S. Highway 17 South. He said he had volunteers at all the polls and had strong support.

In the Democratic primary, most voters expressed their support for either Graham or McKecuen. At the Kermit E. White Center, Paris Sessoms said he chose Graham, whom he considers a long-time friend and a good man.

“He seems to be real fair to everyone” and “down to earth,” Sessoms said.

At PCHS, a voter who asked his name be withheld said he chose Graham as well. He said he believed Graham was the most qualified candidate and very fair-minded. He said he hoped to see the next sheriff focus on being fair and ensuring “everyone has equal protection under the law.”

At Mt. Hermon precinct at Evangelical Methodist Church, Kevin Harrell chose McKecuen over his three competitors. He praised McKecuen as accessible and a true community servant.

“He bends over backwards for the community,” Harrell said of McKecuen. He also said he hoped the next sheriff would combat gangs and gun violence.

One Democratic voter, MH Oliver, declined to say who he chose for sheriff, but said he considered it the most important race on the ballot. The next sheriff's top priority should be controlling the drug problem, he said, alluding to an opioid epidemic causing fatalities as people overdose on either prescription painkillers or illicit heroin.

“It's ruining this country,” he said.

Despite a strong showing for McKecuen and Graham, Wagner said while campaigning at Elizabeth City West precinct at Pasquotank Elementary School that he considered the race too close to predict.

Based on a light showing at Pasquotank elementary as well as polls at Ramoth Gilead Baptist Church, Wagner also said he thought the weather may have reduced turnout. Tuesday saw overcast skies and the threat of rain, coupled with a chilly breeze.

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