Across the Triangle, recently redrawn districts took the drama out of several races for state House on Tuesday night. But not all.
In one of the most-watched races in the Triangle, the contest for the 35th state House seat ended with an apparent tight win for Chris Malone, the Republican Wake County school board member who had been an early favorite before claims arose about a relationship with another board member.
Malone came out ahead, barely, with 50.57 percent of the vote in unofficial results to Democrat Lori Millberg’s 49.43 percent.
“I’ll admit I was nervous,” Malone said, standing in the middle of the Wake Forest restaurant he paced for much of the night Tuesday. “I think luck definitely played a part. I had plenty to worry about.”
Prior to Oct. 21, Malone held a sizable lead on Millberg in at least two polls. He also had $100,000 more than Millberg in campaign cash.
But then details from a Cary police report surfaced and showed that Debra Goldman, one of his Republican peers on the school board, named him as a suspect in the 2010 theft of $130,000 in cash, jewelry and coins from her home. The police report also included statements from Malone saying he and Goldman were in a “heated” romantic relationship. Both are married.
Liberal political action committees attacked. Local Republicans distanced themselves. One conservative political analyst even called the race for Millberg, saying Malone’s “goose is cooked” because of the scandal.
Yet unofficial tallies Tuesday night showed him with 23,417 votes to 22,113 for Millberg.
Millberg, a Wendell Democrat and former Wake school board member, wasn’t ready to concede victory Tuesday night.
Absentee-by-mail ballots may continue coming in until Friday, and the Wake County Board of Elections has until Nov. 16 to deem the results official. If Malone’s margin of victory is less than 1 percent, Millberg can request a recount.
“I guess I’ll just wait and see,” she said.
Big night for GOP
Malone’s win added to a generally upbeat night for House Republicans. They were still waiting on final results, but estimated that that they had picked up about three or four seats, lifting their total of about 71 or 72, said House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam.
“We’ve expanded the majority,” he said.
Stam easily won his own re-election another term representing District 37, pulling in 62.65 percent of the vote, while his Democratic challenger Jason Wunsch, had 37.35 percent. District 37 includes Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs.
“I’m glad the people asked me to serve again,” Stam said. “I hope to lead the house with a very successful session with a new governor.”
In the District 41 battle between Republican incumbent Tom Murry and Democratic challenger Jim Messina, Murry got 51.16 percent of the ballots cast to 48.84 percent for Murry.
“It’s validating for any public servant to get re-elected,” Murry said. “I’m thankful that folks gave me another two years, and I hope I can continue to keep their trust.”
Murry has touted his record of passing education, tort and workers compensation reform, while Messina has accused Murry of being out of touch with voters. Messina said he wants to spend more on education and wants tighter controls for hydraulic fracturing known as fracking.
The newly drawn district includes Apex, Morrisville, Cary and Holly Springs. A quarter of the voters are new to the district, and it has a number of unaffiliated voters that are up for grabs.
Fifth term for Dollar
Nelson Dollar, another veteran Republican legislator, won a fifth term handily, by almost 59 percent of the vote to Democrat Lisa Baker’s 41 percent.
Dollar, a Cary resident, has called for lower taxes and “streamlined regulations.” He has amassed considerable clout in his eight years at the legislature, including a seat on the Appropriations Committee and chairmanship of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley won a decisive victory in House District 38, which covers portions of eastern and northeastern Raleigh. With no Republican in the race, her only challenge came from unaffiliated candidate Shane Murphy, who got on the ballot via petition after the May primaries. Holley pulled in 86.65 percent of the vote.
Republican Jim Fulghum topped Democrat Keith Karlsson for a seat in House District 49, which covers northwestern Wake, by 53.33 percent to 46.67 percent. The Republican-led legislature completely redrew the district last year, leaving the post wide open.
Fulghum, a longtime neurosurgeon, campaigned on promises to slash corporate and personal income taxes to improve the business climate. Karlsson – a retired computer networker who serves on Raleigh’s environmental advisory board – focused on restoring cuts to education.
The contest has been one of the quieter General Assembly races in Wake County, in part because both candidates have little name recognition. Karlsson said the new district lines were intended to produce a Republican win.
In District 50, there was no incumbent, as Rep. Bill Faison ran unsuccessfully for governor. Republican Rod Chaney squared off against Democrat Valerie Foushee, who won more than 55 percent of the votes cast.
The district was retooled in 2011 and covers most of Orange County and parts of northern and eastern Durham County.
Longtime District 56 Rep. Verla Insko of Chapel Hill cruised to her ninth term over Republican Karrie Mead, with more than 77 percent of the 45,000 votes counted.
In the reconfigured House District 54, which covers all of Chatham County, Democrat Deb McManus topped Republican Cathy Wright, with 56.07 percent of the vote. Democrat Joe Hackney, who had long represented the district, retired.
One of the state’s best-known Republican legislators, Rep. Leo Daughtry, easily turned back a challenge from Democrat Jenifer Bubenik in District 26, 59.45 percent to 40.55 percent of the vote.
Staff writers Aliana Ramos and Colin Campbell contributed to this report.