Published Online: December 7, 2004
Published in Print: December 8, 2004, as Winner Declared

State Journal

Winner Declared

But Losing Candidate in N.C. Chief’s Race Hasn’t Given Up

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With a lead of a few thousand votes and the belated blessing of the North Carolina Board of Elections, June Atkinson is preparing to take office as the state’s new schools chief next month. But her opponent for the post, Bill Fletcher, still hopes to stop her.

Nearly a month after the Nov. 2 election, Mr. Fletcher has refused to concede and was continuing to fight the results last week. With the final count so close—a 6,500-vote difference out of 3.3 million cast—in an election beset with irregularities and mishaps, Mr. Fletcher, a Republican, has asked the state supreme court for a final decision on whether all the votes should count.

June Atkinson

“There have been numerous problems [with voting] in North Carolina this year,” Mr. Fletcher said in an interview after the elections board declared Ms. Atkinson, a Democrat, the winner for state superintend on Nov. 30. “All I want is an accurate count.”

As many as 10,000 voters in one county submitted provisional ballots in the wrong precinct, but were counted anyway. Mr. Fletcher would like some or all of those votes to be thrown out. Some 4,000 ballots in another county are missing.

Mr. Fletcher’s two previous requests to lower courts to dismiss the ballots in question were rejected, though the elections board did agree to hold a new election for the state commissioner of agriculture. The candidates in that race are separated by about 2,000 votes.

Meanwhile, Ms. Atkinson is moving forward as the presumed successor to Michael E. Ward, who stepped down from the post this past August after an eight-year stint. She’s been meeting with educators around the state, attending state board meetings, and participating in a legislative institute.

“I am relieved and grateful that the state board of elections has certified me as the winner, and I don’t think [Mr. Fletcher’s court action] will result in any changes,” the longtime administrator in the state department of public instruction said last week. “I’m ready to start work.”

Mr. Fletcher, a businessman and school board member in Wake County, has also been ready to step into the role. Shortly after the election, with the race too close to call, the two candidates shared the podium at several education meetings and events.

Ms. Atkinson, however, prefers to go solo, she said.

Vol. 24, Issue 15, Page 20

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