Sheriff takes win in heated race

Begins first full term

Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats celebrates his election night win along with his wife, Dale. The sheriff easily won against challenger Harry Ennis. A large crowd at the Dunn Shrine Club last night greeted him with cheers.
Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats celebrates his election night win along with his wife, Dale. The sheriff easily won against challenger Harry Ennis. A large crowd at the Dunn Shrine Club last night greeted him with cheers.
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Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats now prepares for his first elected term after a win Tuesday.

Election results show that Sheriff Coats, a Republican, defeated Democratic challenger Harry Ennis, who is retired from the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Sheriff Coats gained approximately 58 percent of the vote for the win.

The sheriff was celebrating his win with friends and supporters at the Dunn Shrine Club. The crowd greeted Sheriff Coats with a standing ovation when he entered the facility. He spoke to his supporters just after 9:30 p.m.

He gave many people credit for his win.

“First of all I want to thank God, he is the reason I am here,” Sheriff Coats said. “I also want to thank my employees and the people of Harnett County. The people have spoken and now its time to go to work.”

Sheriff Coats was appointed to his job following the retirement of former Sheriff Larry Rollins before his term was completed. He was previously a major with the department before his promotion to sheriff.

Angier Republican Jim Burgin, who served two terms on Harnett County Board of Commissioners, will begin service in Raleigh following a win in the race for the North Carolina State Senate.

He won against Harnett County Democratic Party Chairman Jean Sivoli who conceded defeat with a phone call at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Mr. Burgin had approximately 61 percent of the votes cast in his favor.

Mr. Burgin said he already had meetings planned relating to his new job.

“We worked really hard and now it is time to go to work,” Mr. Burgin said. “The big thing that made the difference is I had a lot of people willing to go to work to help me.”

Mr. Burgin replaces retiring N.C. State Sen. Ronald Rabin who did not seek re-election.

State Rep. David Lewis also easily won his race over retired Democrat journalist Richard Chapman.

Rep.Lewis returns to the North Carolina General Assembly for his ninth term. He has slowly risen to second most powerful position in the House of Representatives, serving as chairman of the House Rules Committee. He also led the committee which created new legislative districts throughout the state.

He said was not available for comment.

One of the closest races of the night was the race for District 51 in the North Carolina House of Representatives, where Republican John Sauls was in a tight fight with challenger Lisa Mathis. Mr. Sauls won the race with approximately 59 percent of the vote at night’s end.

The district includes parts of western Harnett County as well as Lee County.

The eyes of the nation were also on the area Tuesday night with a hard-fought campaign between incumbent Republican George Holding and challenger Linda Coleman.

The race was too close to call at presstime Tuesday night.

The Harnett County School Board saw Jason Lemons regain his seat with a win over newcomer David Tillman. Mr. Lemons won the race with approximately 65 percent of the vote. He now begins his first full term.

He was appointed to the board to replace Howard Penny who left the school board after winning a seat on the Harnett County Board of Commissioners.

Incumbent School board member Vivian Bennett easily won her re-election bid against Republican challenger L.A. Durante.

Mrs. Bennett took approximately 65 of the vote and will maintain the seat she or her husband have held for nearly two decades. She replaced her husband, Dr. Jim Bennett, when he passed away before his term was complete.

Republican Don Godfrey won a seat on the Harnett County School Board in District 5. He was unopposed in the General Election and defeated Jennifer Farina in the primary race.

Mrs. Farina’s husband, Roger, now holds the seat. He was appointed to the job when former board member Chad Smith left the board when he moved out of the area.

The election leaves Republicans holding four of the five seats on the school board.

Two incumbents regained their seats on the Harnett County Board of Commissioners. Both Democrat Barbara McKoy in District 1 and Abe Elmore in District 2 return for second terms.

Mrs. McKoy defeated challenger Melissa Dos Santos, getting nearly 65 percent of the votes cast in the race.

Mr. Elmore beat businessman Rodney Johnson for an easy win. Mr. Elmore had 66 percent of the vote in his first defense of his seat. Mr. Elmore served several terms as mayor of Dunn before running for county commissioner four years ago.

Two candidates won seats on the Harnett County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. Current board Vice Chairman Jeff Turlington was the leading vote-getter and Erica Gallion came in second place filling the two seats that were open. Ms. Gallion is also an incumbent.

Harnett County Clerk of Court Marsha Johnson returns to her seat following the election. She was unopposed in her bid to return to office.

Also unopposed were District Court Judges Joy Jones, Addie Rawls and Caron Stewart.

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