Margin of win in Senate primary surprises Sawrey
Debbie Herrera | Johnstonian News
A voter in the Cleveland community casts her ballot.
Benton Sawrey thought he could win the Republican Party primary for a seat in the N.C. Senate, but he was surprised by his margin of victory. Sawrey captured 65.61% of the vote to easily beat Jill Homan, 19.85%, and Matt Ansley, 14.54%.
“Beth and I are still overwhelmed by the result and the confidence Republican voters in Johnston County have in my candidacy,” he said via email. “We liked our chances going into early voting, but I was shocked to win by this margin after an onslaught of negative campaigning against me late in the race.”
As he campaigned, Sawrey picked up endorsements from numerous local leaders, including Sheriff Steve Bizzell.
“I am deeply grateful and appreciative of all my volunteers and local leaders that stepped forward to help me across the finish line,” he said. “This was a community win, and I look forward to being Johnston County’s advocate in the North Carolina Senate.”
Sawrey said his message and a high profile helped him win. “We had a strong, consistent message of tax reform and traditional values that really resonated with voters,” he said. “We were in the field daily — we knocked on thousands of doors and held events countywide. It was important to me to have a strong grassroots program and directly engage with as many voters as possible.”
GOP voters also liked his deep Johnston County roots, Sawrey said. “Voters would ask me to distinguish myself from the competition, which can be difficult in a party primary where there are consistent views on a lot of important issues,” he said. “And I reminded them that I’ve been in Johnston County working for farmers, businesses and families in various capacities for years. I found that people wanted a representative who actually knew the community to be their representative in the General Assembly.”
Sawrey will face Democrat Gettys Cohen Jr. in November. If elected, he said he would work to abolish North Carolina’s personal income tax and increase funding for vocational and technical programs in the state’s high schools and community colleges.
In the GOP primaries for House districts 26 and 28, Johnston voters overwhelmingly favored the incumbents.
Donna White, in District 26, garnered nearly 66% of the vote in defeating political newcomer Rick Walker. In District 28, Larry Strickland fared even better, winning 83.5% of the vote against Jim Davenport.
“I am very grateful for winning the primary and appreciate all those who voted for me,” said White, who will face Democrat Linda Bennett in November.
Strickland will square off against Democrat Wendy Ella May in November.
The primary ballot in Johnston had just one contested race for county commissioner — Republican incumbent Patrick Harris and his GOP challenger, Jyl Burgener. Harris easily advanced to November with 88.58% of the votes.
“I am truly humbled by the election results and the voters’ confidence in my ability to serve another term,” he said in an email. “We have accomplished a lot in the past 3½ years, and I’m excited to continue that momentum going forward.”
Harris faces no Democratic opposition in November.
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