Ballots checked in Cape Carteret, Morehead City, Indian Beach

Board of Elections Deputy Director Margot Burke, left, recounts votes Thursday with BOE Director Caitlin Sabadish, right, at the BOE offices on Live Oak Street in Beaufort. (Dylan Ray photo)

BEAUFORT — A discretionary recount Thursday by the County Board of Elections showed Will Baker still holds a razor-thin lead in the tight race for mayor of Cape Carteret, and it appears he’s the victor.

Mr. Baker, a first-time office seeker, led the balloting 265 to 264 over Commissioner Charlie Evans as of the end of polling Nov. 5.

After the recount Thursday, he led 266 to 265, including absentee and provisional votes approved by the elections board.

The board will canvass the votes Friday beginning at 11 a.m. in its offices in Beaufort, and an official winner could be declared then.

“I’m still shocked,” Mr. Baker said Thursday afternoon. “I went into this thinking I might get 20 percent of the vote. I based my whole campaign, really, on support for the town manager form of government. I think that’s what got me over.”

The municipal election ballot Nov. 5 also included a referendum on whether to switch back from a town manager to a town administrator, and the referendum failed by a vote of 155-365.

All the commissioners elected Nov. 5 – newcomers Jeff Waters and Jim Nalitz and incumbent Don Miller – also publicly said during the campaign they support the manager form of government.

Mr. Baker said he has no plans for immediate changes to Cape Carteret government if declared the winner of the mayoral race, but will wait to see what issues arise and how town commissioners and residents want to deal with them.

He praised Mr. Evans for running a spirited and positive campaign and said he believes the town’s future is bright.

Mr. Evans still has the option to call for another recount, but in an interview Thursday afternoon, he indicated he isn’t likely to do so.

“I’m going to call Will and congratulate him,” he said at 2:15 p.m. “I had a good observer at the recount, and I’m satisfied that the result is accurate.

“I’m not happy with the result, but I just didn’t do a good enough job of getting my supporters out to vote for me, but that’s on me. Congratulations to Will.”

Around lunchtime, Mr. Evans conceded he was on pins and needles, but seemed resigned to whatever happened Thursday.

“It will be what it will be,” he said. “I’m not really expecting any change. All along it’s been about letting the people have a choice, and we just have to live with whatever the result may be.”

Mr. Evans said he was happy with the way the campaign went.

“Will is a great guy and I’m tickled with the way all the candidates handled themselves in our election,” he said. “Some of the ancillary folks on both sides, well, I wasn’t so pleased with that. But you can’t control what other people do.”

Mr. Baker, 56, started working for the city of Graham years ago as a water department maintenance technician after college and worked up to superintendent of the water and sewer department, where he served the town for 18 years. He then worked as the assistant utility director for the town of Hillsborough for 12 years.

He makes his living as a musician now and has been on the appointed town planning board.

Mr. Evans, 72, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran who, in addition to being a town commissioner, was previously on the planning board and served on the mayor’s green ribbon committee.

He supported the switch back to a town administrator form of government, but said he could live with the manager form.

Cape Carteret’s mayoral race wasn’t the only one subject to a recount Thursday. BOE members also revisited the results of Indian Beach’s commission race and that of the Morehead City Town Council.  

In Indian Beach, the final recount tally was 60 votes for candidate Elizabeth Williford, 37 for Peter Wylie and 36 for Victor Heinrich. These results clear up a contested outcome as the preliminary count had both Mr. Wylie and Mr. Heinrich at 36 votes, while Ms. Williford’s original vote tally was 59.

If the recount had no impact on the initial figures and the tie stood, the contest for the final commission seat would have been decided via a tie-breaking method, according to local officials. After Thursday’s recount, however, Indian Beach’s two available commission seats will go to Ms. Williford and Mr. Wylie.

In Morehead City’s council race, the recount determined candidate David Horton secured 650 votes, Bill Taylor secured 543, Diane Warrender secured 523 votes, Dennis Goodwin secured 514 and Harvey Walker secured 475. This means Mr. Horton, Mr. Taylor and Ms. Warrender secured Morehead City’s three available council seats.

While Thursday’s recount didn’t change the outcome of the election, a number of candidates did secure more votes than originally reported. Mr. Goodwin, Mr. Horton, Mr. Taylor and Ms. Warrender originally secured a respective ballot count of 513, 648, 541 and 520. Mr. Walker’s tally of 475 votes remained unchanged.

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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