by Brian Clarey
As the polls closed at G68 on the campus of North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, the doors closed on more than 50 students still inside the polling place who were trying to sort out their ballots.
Precinct Judge Chakeemia Shoulars took a new stack of provisional ballots and impediment-of-declaration forms for students with out-of-state IDs.
Outside, Greensboro’s Mazie Ferguson, on the Democratic ballot for commissioner of labor, assessed her first campaign. She spent a worthwhile morning in Asheville — she’d take Buncombe County before the night was through.
Before she went off to watch returns, Ferguson professed support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I feel the Bern,” she said. “Bernie and I started out at the same time, in the ’60s. We were both sent to college by the same organization — the Scholarship, Education and Defense Fund for Racial Equality.
“Bernie has maintained the principles,” she continued. “He has not changed one iota. And neither have I.”
Both she and the senator had a rough night in North Carolina.
Sanders took a beating in all but a few counties on the western border of the state, plus Orange in the interior. Hillary Clinton took Guilford and Forsyth by 20 points apiece, and won the state’s Democratic primary overall by 15.
Dana Rucker, who voted in Forsyth County, went for Clinton.
“I spoke to a lot of people and I did a lot of research on my own,” she said. “It’s a very important election for minorities, especially with police brutality and authority misuse.”
Clinton’s win in North Carolina came with victories in Florida, Ohio and likely Illinois, which was too close to call at press time. Sanders took a lone victory in Missouri — a 3-point squeaker — making Clinton’s lead in the national Democratic primary more or less insurmountable.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s victory was less definitive.
He finished with 41 percent of the vote, with Sen. Ted Cruz trailing by just four points. Ohio Gov. John Kasich took 18 percent, while Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race, finished with 8.
While Trump took great swaths of the state, Cruz won a cluster of urban districts in the North Carolina heartland: Wake, Durham, Chatham, Orange, Alamance, Guilford and Forsyth.
In Forsyth County, voter Toni Holiday, who said she didn’t vote for Trump, said of the Republican ballot: “It’s like a three-ring circus. The name-calling. It’s not like it was years ago when people spoke about issues. Very childish. If this person gets elected, if the nation goes into a crisis like 9/11, I want someone I can rely on…
“The name-calling, the bullying, that’s not right,” she continued. “I want to be able to turn on the TV when our nation’s in crisis and feel like they’re going to do the right thing for our country. I just don’t feel like Trump can do it.”
Along with North Carolina, Trump won the prized states of Florida and Illinois, while Kasich carried his home state of Ohio.
In the North Carolina Senate race, incumbent Republican Richard Burr easily kept his slot, and will face Democrat Deborah K. Ross in November.
The governor’s race fell along predictable lines, with incumbent Republican Pat McCrory easily outpacing his nearest challenger, C. Robert Brawley, by hundreds of thousands of votes. On the Democrat side, Attorney General Roy Cooper, who announced his candidacy last year, took 70 percent of the vote over challenger Ken Spaulding.
The council-of-state races likewise held few surprises.
Cooper’s hand-picked successor for the AG seat, Josh Stein, won the night by 10 points on the Democrat side. Republican favorite Buck Newton got almost as many votes as Stein, which should make for an interesting race in the fall. Linda Coleman easily won the Democrat nomination to face incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest in November.
Greensboro resident Andy Stevens managed 30 percent of the vote in his underdog race against incumbent Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler. He watched early returns come in at the Guilford County Courthouse.
“I guess I probably put a dent in his election campaign chest for sure,” said Stevens, who elaborated that he spent just $7,500 in this race.
In the general election, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall will face Republican challenger Michael LaPaglia. Republican Mark Johnson will face Democrat June Atkinson for superintendent of public instruction. Dan Blue III won the Demcoratic primary for state treasurer, and will face Republican Dale Folwell in the general election.
And Mazie Ferguson’s name will not be on the ballot. Despite winning Buncombe, Guilford and Forsyth counties, she was unable to overcome former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, who will take on Republican incumbent Cherie Berie in the fall.
As she watched the final numbers roll in with supporters at the Greensboro VFW hall on Eugene Street, Ferguson said, “I really believe he didn’t think it would be this close.”
Jordan Green contributed reporting to this story.