Williams considers run

Published 12:38 am Friday, October 7, 2011

Editor’s note: Portions of this story first appeared on the Washington Daily News’ website Wednesday night.


Former state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, confirmed he’ll make a political announcement at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the N.C. Estuarium in Washington.

Williams declined to discuss the substance of what he called a “formal press conference” in an interview Wednesday night.

“I’ve got professionals in Raleigh handling it,” the former, four-term lawmaker said.

In a July interview, Williams didn’t rule out the possibility of running for public office again, saying he had thought about launching a bid.

“Am I running? I probably am,” he said at the time.

Asked in July whether he would switch parties and run as a Republican, as rumors indicated, the longtime Democrat replied, “I didn’t say that, either.”

A Washington resident and a former commissioner on the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Williams was first elected to the state House in 2002.

He quickly gained a reputation as a successful campaign fundraiser solidly linked to the Democratic leadership in Raleigh.

Though he was frequently described as a conservative Democrat, Williams was swept away in the GOP wave of 2010, when Republicans took control of the state House and Senate.

In the 2010 general election, political newcomer Bill Cook unseated Williams.

Cook, a Cypress Landing Republican now serving Williams’ former House District 6, has announced he plans to run again.

There is some question as to whether Williams has attempted to gauge current legislators’ support for another try at an unspecified office.

On Wednesday, he would not confirm reports he’d been seen entering the Raleigh office of a prominent lawmaker, saying only, “I got friends in Raleigh.”

“I know the word’s, I guess, getting out about what I’m going to do,” he said. “They’re doing a formal press conference. I’ve got people in Raleigh that’s handling it. I’ll let them handle it.”

Despite past political differences, Greg Dority, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, said the GOP would welcome Williams into the fold if he chose to switch parties.

“There’s been speculation, and we anticipate that Arthur will switch to the Republican Party and then offer himself as a candidate for office,” Dority commented. “We are always happy to have Democrats come over to the Republican Party, and Arthur would be a great addition to the party. I would guess he is looking at the Senate seat that looks to favor a Republican candidate after the current redistricting.”

The seat to which Dority referred is the 1st Senate District seat currently held by Sen. Stan White, D-Dare. The shape of that district was changed during the recent legislative shifting of lines, and some local Republican activists said the territory could be friendlier to one of their candidates in 2012.

A Democratic Party committee selected White to replace long-serving Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, after the senator announced he was stepping down early this year.

Williams, then out of office, threw his name in as a contender, but lost to White as the nomination process unfolded in late January.

A call to White wasn’t returned Wednesday night or Thursday.

Asked whether he believed the Democratic Party had let him down, a reference to the 2010 election and this year’s nominations for the District 1 slot, Williams demurred.

“I was raised to believe putting you down in life don’t put you anywhere,” he said. “I’m shooting my own gun and running my own race.”

As of Wednesday night, the State Board of Elections’ website still listed Williams as a member of the Democratic Party.

Williams had not switched parties as of late Thursday morning, said Anita Bullock Branch, Beaufort County’s deputy elections director.