Two area men would decline Senate honor

Published 6:37 pm Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Daily News Staff

Beaufort County Commissioner Ed Booth on Monday told the Washington Daily News he is “not interested” in the nomination to succeed Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, in representing the 1st Senate District in the state Legislature.
The long-serving Basnight’s retirement takes effect Jan. 25, the day before the next legislative session begins.
Responding to comments made on the future of health care in Beaufort County on a local news media website, Booth said he will not pursue the nomination and has no interest in serving in the General Assembly.
“I am more interested in my community,” the Democrat said in an interview during a break in the county commissioners’ meeting.
On Tuesday, state Rep. Tim Spear, D-Washington, who was another possible candidate to replace Basnight, made it known he wants to remain in the House.
“I am humbled by all those who have encouraged me to seek the vacant Senate seat held by Senator Marc Basnight and have pledged their support,” Spear said in a written statement. “Serving in the Senate, like the House, is a tremendous honor and privilege; however, I will remain in the House to serve my district as I was re-elected to do. With my seniority and the good working relationships I have on both side(s) of the aisle, including the incoming House leadership, I believe I can be more effective and better serve the people as a member of the House of Representatives.”
Spear was dealing with a family matter and wasn’t immediately available for further comment Tuesday, according to his legislative assistant, Lona Hallissy.
Among the names being mentioned repeatedly as possible replacements for Basnight are those of Spear and outgoing state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort.
Also mentioned as possible replacements for Basnight are Democratic Beaufort County Commissioner Robert Cayton and former Washington Daily News Publisher Ashley B. Futrell Jr.
Basnight is retiring for health and political reasons, ending his record-setting run as a Senate power broker.
Williams has confirmed he’s interested in replacing Basnight.
“I’d certainly love to do it, and I think it would certainly be an honor,” he told the Daily News last week.
Cayton has indicated he would serve, if selected.
Futrell hasn’t voiced a commitment to serve, but said he was humbled that some people had called him about that possibility.
The Beaufort County Democratic Party’s executive committee is expected to meet Saturday to appoint two delegates to the state Democratic Party’s 1st Senate District executive committee.
The district committee will select Basnight’s replacement, and Gov. Beverly Perdue will appoint the selected candidate to fill the vacancy.
There is some confusion surrounding this process among members of the county party’s executive committee and other interested participants.
In a recent interview, Alice Mills Sadler, party chairwoman, said the party must appoint these delegates at Saturday’s meeting because these positions had been left unfilled.
Local Democrats David Moore and John Murphy asserted they were elected the Senate district committee delegates in 2009 and that their two-year terms have not expired.
In separate interviews, Moore and Murphy went on the record as supporting Williams. Murphy offered Williams his support with the caveat that he’ll honor the wishes of the majority on the local committee.
According to party rules, the delegates are not duty-bound to stick with the county party’s recommendation for a replacement, Murphy confirmed.
“That’s my own personal preference because I think it’s the wise thing to do,” he added.
Observers of the political scene say it’s important who serves in these two delegate slots because they will have influence over who the district-level executive committee chooses to succeed Basnight.
In an e-mail, Ann Cherry, party secretary, said delegates to the 2010 county convention should have elected representatives to district legislative committees during the convention.
“However, taking that action wasn’t listed on the convention agenda and I can’t imagine how I would have missed noting in the minutes that we held three elections, so going with my personal recollection and with the minutes I took, I do believe that we simply failed to do so,” Cherry wrote.
In any case, there will be no vote to name a possible replacement for Basnight until after he has vacated office.
Moore and Murphy were asked why they would support Williams, who served four terms in the House until being unseated in last year’s general election.
“Normally I’m an Arthur Williams man,” Moore commented. “I’m very interested in trying to get Arthur Marc Basnight’s former seat. What I’d like to do is I’d like to make sure that we could guarantee that Beaufort County is represented.”
Murphy agreed with Moore’s assessment of Williams.
“I think he’s been an outstanding representative for Beaufort County in Raleigh, and he has a lot of connections in the Legislature, and he’s probably the best man for the job,” said Murphy. “Arthur lost this election I believe because the Republicans injected a lot of money into it from outside the county, and it was just a bad year for Democrats. I don’t see him having been rejected by the Democratic voters.”