Finnerty victorious, mayor and incumbents retain positions

Published 9:27 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Newcomer Virginia Finnerty, surprising herself and others, collected the most votes (789, or 18.37 percent) in the Washington City Council election to claim one of the five seats on the council.



Finnerty, who carried two of the four Washington precincts and tied as the top-vote getter in another city precinct, attributes her success to many voters wanting a fresh face and diversity on the council.

“I am ecstatic. I am very happy,” Finnerty said Tuesday night.

Finnerty said she had no inkling she would do as well as she did in her election bid. “I did not want to think about it. I wanted to keep my eye on the ball and do everything I needed to do and not even look at what anybody else was doing. … Of course, I wondered, but I had no idea.”

Finnerty said her door-to-door campaigning provided her insight into how some city voters felt about their local government.

“All I can tell you is the feedback, the interaction I got when I was campaigning. … The feedback was, and I couldn’t quantify each one, that I was new to the field and had never done this before. … They would ask me, ‘Are you new?’ I would say, ‘Yes.’ Then they would say, ‘I’m voting for you because I’m tired of the same old, same old.’ … Other people said, ‘I’m voting for you because we need diversity. We’ve got a bunch of men; we need a woman in there,’” Finnerty said. “Believe it or not, that was from men and women, not just women.”

Finnerty carried the Washington 1 and Washington 4 precincts.

Incumbents William Pitt (661 votes), Richard Brooks (660 votes), Doug Mercer (618 votes) and Larry Beeman (584 votes) apparently kept their seats on the council. Gil Davis (557 votes) and Ty Carter (398 votes) were unsuccessful in their election bids. Brooks carried the P.S. Jones-Washington 3 precinct. Brooks and Finnerty were the top vote-getters in the Washington 2 precinct, each collecting 140 votes.

Mayor Mac Hodges (863 votes, or 80.43 percent) easily held off a challenge by Ronald Lundy (195 votes) to keep the mayoral gavel in his grasp for a second term.

Hodges attributes is victory to voters wanting him to finish some projects he helped start during the past two years — downtown redevelopment, downtown streetscaping and bringing a hotel to the city’s central business district.

“I think the first thing I offered in this race was experience,” Hodges said.

Hodges said he and Lundy want many of the same things for Washington, including improving tourism and making the central business district more stable fiscally. “We’ve already got those things going on,” said Hodges, adding that he believes voters wanted to give him another term to see those projects to fruition.

Vote totals from Tuesday’s elections are unofficial. At least one seat on the council was going to change this election cycle because Bobby Roberson resigned from the council in June. Subsequently, he was appointed interim city manager.

The mayor and council members serve two-year terms. If the new council, which takes office in December, follows tradition, it will elect the highest vote-getter among the council candidates as mayor pro tempore. The council is not bound to do that. The mayor pro tempore presides over council meetings when the mayor is absent.

The Beaufort County Board of Elections will conduct its canvass at 11 a.m. Tuesday. That’s when it will review provisional ballots and vote totals from each precinct.

For a voter whose registration status is not immediately clear when he or she arrives at a polling place to mark ballots, that person is given provisional ballots. Later, the Board of Elections determines if that person is a qualified registered voter. If so, the ballot is counted. If not, the ballot is not counted.

The vote totals are unofficial until the Nov. 10 canvassing by the Beaufort County Board of Elections.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike