Williams is in

Published 12:40 am Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There will be a Republican primary in House District 6.

Former state Rep. Arthur Williams on Monday said he would go after the District 6 seat.

This means Williams and Realtor Jerry Evans — both Washington Republicans — will have to face each other in the May 8 primary election. The victor will go on to face the Democratic nominee in November.

District 6 includes all of Hyde, Dare and Washington counties, plus most of Beaufort County north of the Pamlico River and the Gilead precinct south of the river.

The District 6 seat is now held by Rep. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort.

Cook has chosen to vacate his re-election effort in favor of a run for state Senate in District 1.

The only other announced District 6 candidate to contact the Washington Daily News is small-businessman Paul Tine, a Democrat from Dare County.

Williams was first elected to the House as a Democrat in 2002. He was easily re-elected to two-year terms until November 2010, when Cook, riding the crest of the statewide Republican wave and a vigorous door-to-door campaign, unseated the incumbent.

Williams switched parties in October. It had been rumored he would run for state Senate as a Democrat and that he had met with GOP leaders in Raleigh to discuss his prospects.

For months, Williams wouldn’t deny or confirm those rumors, but he set the rumors to rest Monday.

“During my years in the House, I worked with Republicans on business-friendly legislation and socially conservative issues,” he said in a written statement. “The new majority in the House has taken steps to make our state more attractive to business, and I believe I can work with them to advance the interests of Eastern North Carolina.”

While in the House, Williams served as vice chairman of the agriculture and transportation committees. He is a former member of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

His statement mentions having worked with present and former House leaders, among them House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.

“Conservative Democrats have always had a home in the Republican party, because their party long ago abandoned conservative principles, as evidenced by their unabashedly liberal leadership in the General Assembly,” Tillis was quoted as saying in Williams’ news release. “While serving the House, Rep. Williams worked with Republicans to help defeat several liberal ideas. As the Minority Whip then, I knew I could count on Rep. Williams when he gave me his word. Consequently, the Republican Minority was able to defeat several measures put forth by the liberal Democratic leadership.”

Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ spokesman, said it’s clear from the statement that Tillis “welcomes Arthur’s announcement,” but cautioned this didn’t amount to the speaker’s endorsement in an open primary.

“We’ll defer to the citizens on that,” Shaw said. “If Jerry (Evans) wins the primary, then he’ll be our guy. The speaker did work with Arthur. They have a very, very good relationship.”

Evans made it clear he’s not giving up his campaign and that Williams’ entrance doesn’t change his intention to win.

“I just wish him well,” Evans said. “I’m going to run my campaign. I still believe that that will be an excellent investment for the people of Beaufort County.”

Greg Dority, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, predicted the Evans-Williams face-off “will probably be the biggest Republican primary we’ve ever had in Beaufort County.”

“If Evans matches his fundraising goals, he will be tough to beat,” Dority said. “Williams is a seasoned, veteran lawmaker that knows every trick in the book.”

First-quarter campaign fundraising reports may tell part of the tale, he suggested.

The Rev. David Moore, a Democrat and former Beaufort County commissioner, had been a Williams supporter.

As a delegate to a Democratic nominating session last year, Moore supported Williams when the ex-lawmaker sought to replace retiring Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare. Williams didn’t get the nominating committee’s nod.

“I really can’t tell you much about the Republicans,” Moore said when asked whether he still could support Williams. “You know I’m a Democrat, so I don’t know. It ought to be interesting.”

Asked whether he’d work for Tine, Moore replied, “I’m a Democrat,” but he would go no further.

Williams resides with his wife, Ginny Williams.

He is semi-retired, but is helping operate a car lot, Ginny Williams confirmed.