Baldwin, incumbents take GOP race

Published 2:43 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Staff Writer

Stan Deatherage, Al Klemm, and Cindy Baldwin won the right in Tuesday’s primary election to face Democratic opponents in the November election for three seats on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, according to unofficial returns from the Beaufort County Board of Elections.
They were the top three vote-getters among the five GOP candidates seeking their party’s nomination, according to those unofficial returns.
Baldwin, in a telephone interview Tuesday night, said she will decide in the coming weeks whether to drop out of the race before the November election for the good of the party or stay in and fight.
“I’m going to have to make a decision as to whether I would hurt the party if I stay in the race,” she said. “If we feel that is the case, then I will drop out. If we decide that is not the case, then I will run myself ragged.”
Tony (T.J.) Keech Jr. and Buddy Harrell were unsuccessful in their bids to be GOP nominees, according to unofficial returns..
Internet entrepreneur Deatherage, 55, of Washington received 854 of the 2,229 votes cast in the GOP primary for county commissioner, followed by Klemm, 566 votes; Baldwin, 345 votes; Keech, 297 votes; and Harrell, 167 votes.
Deatherage was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1994. His campaign was directed to the effects of federal and state government decisions on Beaufort County taxpayers and government officials. Throughout his campaign, Deatherage maintained that bad decisions in the nation’s capital and Raleigh affect the county’s ability to provide the essential services that local citizens need.
His message appeared to resonate with the GOP electorate, based on Tuesday’s returns.
Deatherage led the vote count in 18 of 21 precincts and in absentee voting and early voting. Klemm carried two precincts, and Baldwin carried one precinct, according to unofficial returns.
In an interview at the Beaufort County Board of Elections after the vote totals were announced, Deatherage said he is relieved the primary election is over.
“I am looking forward to the general election,” he said. “I plan to run extremely hard.
“I do this so that I can manifest to the people of Beaufort County that conservative government is the best government we can have in these uncertain times.”
Klemm, 65, of Washington has served one term on the Board of Commissioners. A retired consultant, Keech ran a campaign largely focused on bringing jobs to the county, improving the quality of education county residents receive and keeping the county’s crime rate low.
Klemm said he is pleased by his strong showing in the primary election and planned to campaign hard in the coming months as the November election approaches.
“As long as I finished in the top three, I am pleased,” he said. “I was directing all of my attention and resources to the general election.”
A business counselor with East Carolina University, Baldwin, 52, of Bath, was seeking her first term on the board. During her campaign, Baldwin cited unemployment as the top issue facing the county, and she predicted budget cuts as the county struggles to recover from the Great Recession.
“I’m incredibly grateful that the people have let me get this far,” she said.
Keech, 30, of Washington, also was seeking a first term on the board. A probation-and-parole officer, Keech stressed the importance of small businesses in Beaufort County and pledged to advocate for them.
He attributed his fourth place finish to the low voter turnout, adding that he would like to try a future run for political office.
“The citizens of Beaufort County have spoken,” he said. “I just wish more people had exercised their civic duty.”
A wine-maker, Harrell, 80, of Edward, campaigned on the need to address taxes in Beaufort County. He raised eyebrows at the Beaufort County Republican Party’s convention when he said “about the only thing we teach in Beaufort County is black history,” and he said the local school system doesn’t teach that colonists who came to America were communists. His remarks received hearty applause from convention-goers.
Harrell attributed his defeat to his lack of advertising in the campaign. He said he doesn’t plan any future runs for political office.
“I was testing the waters,” he said. “And that was enough.”