Guilford primaries for school board and state House upset status quo


The Rev. Amos Quick III prayed with his supporters at Chandlar’s Florist in east Greensboro after winning the District 58 state house seat over incumbent Ralph Johnson. (photo by Joanna Rutter)

by Joanna Rutter

Early in Greensboro on Tuesday morning at G-74, Bluford Elementary School, Precinct Judge Ronald Tuck wasn’t confident incumbent state Rep. Ralph Johnson could keep his seat in state House District 58.

“It doesn’t look good for my boy Ralph Johnson,” he said.

After Johnson had suffered a mild stroke in late February, Tuck said, none of their mutual friends had seen him.

Update: State Rep. Pricey Harrison tweeted around midnight on election night that Johnson had passed away. A former campaign spokesperson confirmed the news to TCB on Wednesday morning.

Newcomer Rev. Amos Quick III won against Johnson with 71.42 percent of the vote.

In the race for this large swath of Greensboro, both Democrat candidates were aligned on nearly all pertinent issues; Johnson emphasizes Medicaid, and Quick focuses on school improvement. Johnson won only two precincts, one of which by only one vote. Quick faces no Republican challenger in November.

Around 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday at Chandlar’s Florist in east Greensboro, a largely black crowd in “Pick Quick” T-shirts listened as one supporter read definitive results from his phone.

Quick addressed the group with a preacher’s gravitas, emphasizing “respect for everybody,” including his incumbent opponent.

“We have, since the beginning, prayed for Mr. Ralph Johnson,” Quick said.

“Never did we — nor ever will we — disrespect his service. And now that he is ill, we certainly will lift in prayer tonight Mr. Johnson, his loved ones, and his supporters as we also pray for our success tonight.”

“Listen: In Raleigh, it’s not easy right now for anybody,” Quick added, “and so for him to be down there representing me and us who live in this district, I certainly appreciate that.”

Late on Tuesday afternoon, there was a steady drip of voters here and there at Rocky Knoll Baptist Church, where Dionne Battle voted for Quick.

“He’s been here in North Carolina for a long time, and he knows what North Carolina needs,” she said.

“He’ll be good for both sides — to bring both sides together.”

Before heading in to vote at Mendenhall Middle School in Greensboro, Adrian Jackson was still deciding between District 58 candidates.

“I’m kind of divided, to be honest,” Jackson said.

“I have almost a lifetime of experience with [Quick] in the Boys and Girls Club. I’m highly critical of a lack of businesses in the district’s ZIP code. Maybe if we get the incumbent [Johnson] out, we could shake things up.”

At the Lindley Park Recreation Center in Greensboro around 7:15 p.m., there was still a decent amount of traffic with the post-work voting crowd. Among them was Darlene McClinton, a teacher and an artist with the Artist Bloc, who also voted for Quick.

“As an artist and an educator, what’s most important to me is making sure the education system, the school board is running smoothly and is fair,” she said, adding that she gave her students extra credit for voting.

She paused when recalling her pick for school board. “Honestly, I don’t even remember.”

Other voters had trouble remembering their school board choices as well.

Cagle asked after voting, “School board? Who’s running again?”

A general forgetfulness may have been partially caused by a complete redistricting, which opened up all nine seats.

In school board District 1, former city council member Diane Bellamy-Small beat out incumbent Aaron Keith McCullough of High Point, who had been appointed in a scramble to fill the vacant seat after its former occupant won election to the Guilford County Commission.

In District 2, longtime school board veteran Anita Sharpe beat out a newcomer, real estate businessman John Bradley Nosek; Deena Hayes won overwhelmingly in District 8 over Matt Stafford.

James Burton voted for Pat Tillman in the race for the Republican nomination for School Board District 3 against Brian Pearce. Tillman won with 62.89 percent.

“I have a kid in school… it’s almost like an abstraction,” he said. “I’m sorry, I don’t really pay that close attention to it. My vote was uninformed, to be honest.”

While Tillman’s victory proved a landslide, that wasn’t so clear at first.

“The results go from the county to the state, the state verifies numbers, then it comes back to the county,” Tillman explained in a phone interview. “That was really mixed up for a while, there was a glitch, and we didn’t know the results for a long time.”

Tillman’s confident win at first seemed standing on thin ice.

“We knew our early voting numbers up two-to-one, but there was never a sense of comfort at any point until the last half-hour, so I’m really just grateful,” he said. “It’s a humbling experience when you have so many people helping you, supporting you and believing in you. I have people believing I’ll attack problems.”

School board redistricting didn’t affect Republican incumbent Linda Welborn in holding her seat against Paul Daniels. She had ended Daniels’ tenure on the Guilford County School Board after just one term in 2012; he was unable to return the favor.

Campaign workers for Welborn congregated at her home in Greensboro following poll closure.

“I’ve got people here just celebrating that it’s done,” Welborn said in a phone interview. “We’re just having a fine pizza celebration […] Just a ‘Woo!’ let-loose, deflate moment.”

“We’re excited,” Welborn added. “We’re optimistic.”

At Chandlar Florist, Quick’s celebratory gathering immediately turned spiritual after his victory speech; Rev. Johnny Pearson gave a benediction over Quick’s term as supporters in the room stood to hold hands and bow their heads.

“We want to move forward, God, we want to look to the future,” said Pearson.

“As they danced as they crossed the Red Sea, God, we are dancing now.”

Anthony Harrison contributed reporting to this article.