Prospects for Basnight’s seat begin to emerge

By on January 6, 2011

Wood

Tine

Judge

Tillett

On the heels of state Sen. Marc Basnight’s announcement that he will resign his seat effective Jan. 25, speculation now centers on who will replace the legendary Democrat.

A number of names are being floated both locally and in nearby counties.

One common theme in speaking with interested parties revolves around the fact that Basnight’s resignation so soon was not expected.

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Williams

Typically, politicians would spend a year or more planning before running for office.

In the current scenario, candidates must quickly familiarize themselves with a seldom-used mechanism — an executive committee made up of two delegates from each of the district’s eight counties designed to fill unexpected vacancies.

These 16 delegates will control hundreds of votes on behalf of their county Democratic committees. At this time, there is uncertainty as to whether Tyrell County will send delegates, so the total number may only be 14 when the committee convenes.

The Democrats are planning to name a successor in time for him or her to be sworn in with the rest of legislators this month. With such an abbreviated timetable, candidates must determine their own interest, weigh the strengths of possible competitors and build the required delegate support — all in less than 30 days.

Former state Rep. Arthur Williams, who served Beaufort and Pitt counties from 2003 through 2010, was quoted by WITN as saying he would be interested in the appointment for the 1st District seat. Williams was defeated by Republican William Cook in the 2010 election, a victim of the GOP tidal wave that swept both chambers. Many insiders consider Williams the front-runner.

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Dare County resident Paul Tine, a local insurance executive and outgoing Chamber of Commerce president, has told the Voice he is “giving strong consideration” relative to seeking the appointment.

Dare County Commissioner Virginia Tillett has thrown her hat into the ring as well. Tillett told the Voice “her experience as an educator and Dare County commissioner allows a unique perspective” to bring to the position. She said she felt confident she could contribute to important issues such as education and bringing jobs to the 1st District.

Another name being floated is that of Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners. Judge said he is “keeping all of his options open. District 1 needs the best man or woman who is willing to work night and day to carry on the great representation we have had in this district for over 20 years.”

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Matt Wood of Pasquotank County informed the Voice he is “interested in the seat.” Wood has been out of town and when he returns to Pasquotank, he plans to “have some conversations and spend time understanding the process involved.”

Wood is a Pasquotank businessman who formerly owned a propane distribution business and a small chain of convenience stores. He currently co-owns a farming operation. Wood was a three-term Pasquotank commissioner and a two-term school board member. Wood’s father once held the District 1 seat.

Two other prominent names mentioned are state Rep. Tim Spear of the 2nd District, which includes Dare County, and state Rep. Bill Owens from the 1st District, encompassing Camden, Pasquotank, Currituck and Tyrrell counties. Inside sources have told the Voice neither candidate is interested in assuming the vacant seat, but we have not been able to confirm that information directly with the two representatives as of this writing.

It should be noted the situation remains fluid and prospective candidates could drop out, new hopefuls may emerge and a “dark horse” selection is always possible.

Senate District 1 includes Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Pasquotank, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

Related story: Basnight will leave state Senate on Jan. 25 »

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