The race between two former friends to represent western Wake County in the state House ended just like it started: bitterly.
Cary Democrat Gale Adcock told state Rep. Tom Murry before his re-election bid two years ago that she had no reason to run against him in House District 41. But everything changed after Adcock, a Cary town councilwoman, decided to run against the Morrisville Republican this year.
Murry authorized ads that depicted Adcock with a long, wooden nose. Adcock, meanwhile, authorized an ad criticizing Murry for “interjecting politics into our private health care decisions” by cutting state funding to Planned Parenthood.
On Tuesday, the race was as close as political experts expected it to be with Adock defeating the two-term incumbent by less than 800 votes, according to unofficial returns. Adcock garnered 14,939, or 51.33 percent of the vote, to Murry’s 14,164, or 48.67 percent.
The Cary Town Council will soon begin the process of replacing Adcock on the board.
On Election Night, Adcock celebrated her victory with friends at Prestonwood Country Club while Murry faced questions from the state Board of Elections about misleading voters with campaign materials distributed on election day.
Wednesday, the day after the election, Murry blamed his loss on “outside, liberal special interests” such as Planned Parenthood, North Carolina Families First and North Carolina Citizens for Protecting our Schools paying for ads against him. Murry, in the House for two terms, said he’s “not ruling out” running for elected office again.
While most incumbent Republicans in the General Assembly cruised to victory, Murry’s survival seemed to depend on his ability to convince voters in the politically moderate district that he was a middle-of-the-road candidate who valued education.
The Morrisville pharmacist supported a state budget that provided an average pay raise of 7 percent for North Carolina teachers.
Murry also broke with party leaders and voted against a bill that scrapped a Jordan Lake cleanup plan passed by former Gov. Bev Perdue in favor of controversial water circulators on the lake. For that, he earned an endorsement from the Sierra Club of N.C.
But Adcock, a registered nurse and nurse practitioner who works as chief health officer for SAS Institute in Cary, and unaffiliated advocacy groups targeted Murry for his votes on education, guns and healthcare provider Planned Parenthood.
Adcock pointed out that Murry and his Republican peers paid for teacher raises by eliminating some of their longevity pay. She said she would try to bring teacher pay to the national average.
Adcock said voters told her Murry’s interest in improving education didn’t seem “geniune because they waited until the last minute to raise teacher pay.”
Murry’s support of legislation that allowed concealed weapons in bars may have been a large consideration among voters in western Wake’s large Indian-American community, said Morrisville town councilman Steve Rao, who served with Murry when he was on the Morrisville Town Council. Rao said he considers him a good friend.
“The community is typically fiscally conservative and socially moderate,” Rao said.
The N.C. Indian American Political Action Committee donated $1,000 to Adcock’s campaign.
Voters also were bothered by Murry’s campaign tactics, Adcock said.
On Election Day, the North Carolina Association of Educators accused Murry’s campaign of distributing materials that falsely claimed the group endorsed him. The NCAE had distributed cards with an image of an apple and a list of endorsed candidates, including Adcock.
An attorney for the NCAE sent a letter to the state Board of Elections Tuesday saying Murry supporters handed out “look-alike” cards which read, “Please vote for these candidates who support our teachers and work on legislation supported by the North Carolina Association of Educators.”
The cards listed Murry among the endorsed candidates and said they were paid for by the N.C. Healthy Leadership Committee, the name of Murry’s committee.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Murry defended the handouts, saying the content represented the NCAE’s position on education funding that he voted for. He’s asking for the complaint to be dismissed.
Still, Adcock said, “I don’t know if that was the nail in the coffin … but it was the topper of a long string of what I consider to be very unnecessary negative action.”
In Cary, the town council will soon appoint someone to serve the remaining year of Adcock’s council term. Adcock, who was first elected to the council in 2007, represents District D in central Cary from N.C. 55 to Maynard Road.
The last council appointment came in 2012 when the board picked councilman Ed Yerha to serve the remaining term for Julie Robison, who resigned to move to West Virginia.