Four running in District 1 GOP primary

Published 12:59 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Staff Writer

Washington Republican Ashley Woolard will have to defeat three GOP challengers in the May 4 primary election if he wants to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
Woolard has three competitors in the primary race: Jerry Grimes of Goldsboro, John Carter of Wilson and James Gordon Miller of Kill Devil Hills.
All four men are running for their party’s nomination in the state’s 1st Congressional District, which winds through a large chunk of northeastern North Carolina, including much of southern Beaufort County.
A number of the counties in the district are divided among different congressional territories.
Beaufort County Republicans in District 1, along with their GOP counterparts in all of the 23 counties in the district, will have a chance to weigh in on this race during the primary.
Woolard apparently has one distinct advantage in this competition: his camp has raised $36,084.20, well outstripping his GOP challengers, who haven’t raised enough money to file reports with the Federal Election Commission.
Woolard’s campaign listed $8,152.32 in total operating expenditures, ending 2009 with $27,931.88 cash on hand, according to the FEC’s Web site.
Woolard said his committee has added to that total since January.
By contrast, Butterfield had $235,511 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31, 2009, the close of the past reporting period.
Woolard, vice president of his family’s insurance company, is a known quantity in Beaufort County, attracting dollars and verbal support from local people favoring his candidacy.
“The Republican Party, we’re always glad to have a primary,” Woolard told the Washington Daily News. “It gives me an opportunity to talk about our superior message and issues.”
Woolard said he doesn’t know the other three candidates in the district.
“I’m sure they’re fine individuals,” he said.
The other three candidates are much less well-known in this area, though two of them shared details of their backgrounds in separate interviews with the Daily News.
At 32, Grimes, two years Woolard’s junior, may be the youngest man in the race. Grimes said he is the assistant pastor of Peter’s Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Wallace.
Grimes’ Facebook page says he has served on the faculty of Shaw University in Raleigh.
Shaw’s Web site lists a Jerry Grimes as a part-time ethics instructor.
Grimes said the most pressing issue facing the district is the lackluster regional economy. He mentioned “astronomical unemployment,” and he suggested the district needs more attention from its leaders.
He said he hasn’t hired a fundraiser or a campaign manager, and he is using a shoe-leather approach to reach voters.
“What I hear increasingly is that people are glad to have their voice back,” he said.
According to his campaign Web site, Carter is a former Air Force man who received an honorable discharge in 1990.
Later, he served as a deputy sheriff until 1998, then he worked in the computer industry, his Web site reads.
“I’m an average guy,” Carter told the Daily News. “I have been affected by this economy just like many other Americans have. I’m working a part-time job because I can’t find a full-time job. I think it’s time for career politicians to step aside.”
Carter said he is working as a part-time sales associate at Belk in Wilson.
“I have been out there, walking the 1st District and meeting people, and shaking hands,” he said.
Miller could not be reached for comment.
There is a telephone listing for a James Miller in Kill Devil Hills. A reporter dialed the number at least twice, but no one answered and no voice mail or answering machine picked up the call.
Neither Perry White, chairman of the Dare County Republican Party, nor Donna Elms, GOP secretary of the Dare County Board of Elections, knew who Miller was.
White said he had received several phone calls from people inquiring about Miller, but that he was unable to provide any information about the candidate.
“He has not contacted anybody in the local party that I know of here in Dare County,” White said.
In a recent interview, Butterfield said he hasn’t met any of his potential rivals for the District 1 seat. He said he has done some research on Woolard.
“He seems to be a very intelligent, well-respected citizen of Beaufort County,” Butterfield told the Daily News. “Helps run a family business and, apparently, he is well-respected in his community. And I look forward to meeting him one day.”
Butterfield, a former N.C. Supreme Court judge and Superior Court judge, was elected to the House in 2004.
He said he welcomes opposition.
“That’s the way this thing works,” he said. “I think (Woolard) is very capable of debating the issues with me.”