Blake Handles Morgan
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State Sen. Harris Blake easily defeated former state House co-speaker Richard Morgan on Tuesday in a Republican primary for the District 22 seat.
Blake does not face Democratic opposition in the November general election. He is seeking his fifth term in the state Senate.
The district includes Moore and Harnett counties, and Blake carried both. He won 66 percent, or 6,653 votes, to 34 percent, or 3,454 votes, for Morgan, according to unofficial returns. His margin of victory in Moore County was 67 percent, or 4,806 votes, to 30 percent, or 2,347 votes, for Morgan.
Voter turnout was extremely light in Moore County, with 9,693, 16.14 percent, of the 60,069 registered voters casting ballots.
Blake won all 25 precincts in Moore County and was tops in one-stop absentee voting.
“I feel really good about this,” a jubilant Blake said from his Pinehurst office, surrounded by his supporters. “It shows that the voters think I am doing a good job. I look forward to continuing to do that.”
Blake said dealing with the budget crisis will be the top priority for the state legislature next year.
“It is all about the budget,” Blake said. “We don’t have enough money to pay for what he already have. We have got our work cut out for us. We certainly be expanding anything or adding new programs. We will have to prioritize. We must control growth in state government. Raising taxes is not the answer. That has been tried, and it didn’t work. It’s our state, and it’s our challenge.”
Blake said that he hopes the Republican Party can increase its numbers and even capture a majority of the seats in the Senate next year. He said he hopes to enjoy increase clout in the Senate should that happen.
“I will do my part to provide leadership,” Blake said.
Morgan said he was “disappointed” by the loss but accepts the will of the voters.
“This is the way we do politics in America,” Morgan said. “I certainly want to wish Harris Blake the best. I will certainly continue to help folks when I am asked about that.”
Blake and Morgan were once close friends and political allies. The first public hint of the erosion in their relationship came two years ago when Morgan’s wife, Cindy — who is a county commissioner — ran against Blake. She lost in a Republican primary. Her fortunes were also not good Tuesday, losing her seat in a Republican primary to newcomer Craig Kennedy, likely a fallout from the anti-Morgan sentiment.
Judging from the tone of the campaign, the level of animosity has only risen between the two men.
Morgan, who served in the state House from 1990 to 2006, claimed that Blake was ineffective and had strayed from his conservative roots. He zeroed in on Blake’s vote for a $25 million fishing pier in Nags Head.
“I am glad the campaign is behind me,” Blake said. “It has been an interesting journey to say the least. But I’m ready to look to the future and do the best job possible to represent the district. I am really looking forward to that. This shows that the voters have confidence in me. I feel very good about that.”
Morgan’s loss could very well be an indication that many rank-and-file Republicans — especially in Moore County — still harbor ill will toward him as a result of a power-sharing deal he made with Democrats in 2003 to be co-speaker along with Jim Blake. Morgan was accused of betraying his party and lashing out at his enemies within his party. He was tossed off the state GOP’s Executive Committee.
State party leaders openly campaigned for his primary opponent, Joe Boylan, in 2006. Boylan defeated Morgan in a brutal race and went on to win over two unaffiliated candidates in the general election. Cindy Morgan dodged all the rancor directed at her husband that year in first winning election as a county commissioner.
Richard Morgan re-emerged on the political scene two years after losing to Boylan. After winning the GOP nomination over two other candidates for state superintendent of public instruction, he lost to incumbent June Atkinson in the general election.
Morgan said it was premature to talk about any future political plans.
“I haven’t given it that much thought,” he said. “As I said, I will always to try to help folks when I am asked, both in office and out. Nothing changes about that. I would rather leave it that way for now.”
Contact David Sinclair by e-mail at email@example.com.
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