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Seth Banks stands outside of the GOP headquarters in Burnsville on primary election night.
Photo by Jonathan Austin

This story has been modified from a previous version to reflect slight changes in vote counts as of Wednesday morning. 

Originally published: 2014-05-07 00:17:06
Last modified: 2014-05-07 13:06:30

Banks takes DA race

by Anna Oakes

Seth Banks of Burnsville handily secured the 24th Prosecutorial District attorney's seat with strong support in the southern counties of the district, according to unofficial primary election results.

Results announced on election night are unofficial; the election results will not be official until the canvass is held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 13.

Banks faced two other Republicans in the primary -- Britt Springer and Nathan Miller, both of Boone. According to unofficial State Board of Elections results, Banks secured 6,284 votes, or 48 percent of the district that includes Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties.

"First, I wish to acknowledge the efforts of my opponents, Nathan Miller and Britt Springer, in this spirited race," Banks said Tuesday. "They contributed to a fruitful dialogue highlighting areas for improvement in the 24th Judicial District. I am thrilled by the support I have received from Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties, and I look forward to serving all the people as the next district attorney."

Springer finished second, with 4,321 ballots and 33 percent of the district's votes, including a win in Avery County. Miller took Watauga County, but finished in third overall, with 2,494 votes, or 19 percent.

By securing at least 40 percent of the vote, Banks avoided a runoff election with the second-place finisher. No candidates from other parties filed for the seat, but Banks will need to secure at least one vote in the November general election to be officially elected to the district attorney's office, Watauga County Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges said.

"We ran a hard campaign and a clean campaign. We didn't attack anybody," Springer said. "I was new to politics, so it definitely opened my eyes. Just like with juries, I stand by what the voters wanted. I congratulate Mr. Banks on a well-run campaign."

Miller said Tuesday that he had called Banks to congratulate him and that he wishes him the best of luck, adding that he hopes "he will correct the issues with the office."

"I'm disappointed that Watauga County Republicans did not show up at the polls," Miller said, though he added that he was proud to win Watauga County. Miller said he was disappointed with his showing in Avery and Mitchell after putting a lot of effort into those counties.

Miller will complete his term as a Watauga County commissioner at the end of this year and said he hasn't given much thought to future political endeavors.

The race represents the first time the district attorney's seat has been contested in at least three terms. Republican Jerry Wilson ran unopposed for three consecutive terms in office, retiring unexpectedly March 31 due to health reasons. Former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr is currently serving as interim district attorney until the new district attorney is sworn in following the general election.

The primary election's purpose in the nonpartisan race for Watauga County Board of Education was to cull two from the slate of eight candidates for the general election ballot. It appears the two not advancing to the November election will be Josh Kanoy, with an unofficial tally of 1,645 votes, and Tiffany Christian, with 1,239 votes.

Christian said that going forward, she will take a look at the remaining school board candidates to see who she believes would be a good fit for Watauga County Schools.

"I'm going to continue to do what I have been doing and be involved with the schools," she said. "Running again is not out of the question."

The six who appear to have advanced to the general election are Jay Fenwick, with 2,839 votes; Kurt D. Michael, with 2,415; Jason Cornett, 2,377; Ronald Holste, 2,292; Adam L. Trivette, 2,086; and Ron Henries, 1,941.

"I feel really honored to have gained the trust of a lot of people in Watauga County," Fenwick said. "The big thing is to advance."

Cornett said he was really excited about the outcome of the primary.

"The next thing I'm going to do is meet with my family and friends and see where to go from here," Cornett said. "My goal is to reach out to the schools, principals and educators and go community to community and school to school to see what their concerns are."

Michael said he was going to "hit the ground running." Michael said his goal was to explain to those who did not vote for him why they should in November. "I'd also like to thank all the teachers who came out and supported me," he said.

Two Republican primary elections took place in the Watauga County Board of Commissioners races for District 3 and District 5.

Jimmy Hodges easily outran his fellow former commissioner Allen Trivette in District 5 for a chance to return to the board, with 2,282 votes to Trivette's 1,170, in unofficial totals.

The District 3 Republican primary was much closer, with Karen Greene Lerch edging by with 1,605 votes over Matt Klutz, who had 1,556.

Jane Hodges said that if the difference between candidates' totals falls within 1 percent of the total vote count, a candidate may request a recount. Six provisional ballots were cast on May 6, Hodges said, and will be checked for validity at the May 13 canvass.

"At this time I'll probably wait until Tuesday to make a real decision, (but) I don't anticipate in asking for a recount -- I don't see a purpose in that," said Klutz. "It will be interesting to see what the final tally is.

"Ms. Lerch ran a good clean campaign, and I fully support her from here forward if that's how it turns out after Tuesday. I'm proud of the support that I got."

Allison Haver contributed reporting to this story.

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