When Leo Daughtry retired from the General Assembly, Johnston County lost its most powerful politician. Succeeding the 13-term representative and former majority leader in District 26 will be current Johnston County Board of Education member Donna White.
Continuing the streak of Republican wins in the district, White defeated Democrat and schoolteacher Rich Nixon, collecting 58 percent of the vote to his 41 percent.
“It’s an awesome responsibility to represent the district and the state,” White said on her win. “It’s an awesome responsibility, but also a great opportunity to be able to continue serving this constituency.
“I’ve always been focused on serving the public, and with this win I think voters said, ‘Thank you, Ms. White.’ And it gives you a warm feeling when your constituents see the work you’ve done and determine you can take on another level of service and responsibility.”
Given her nursing background, White said she expects medical issues to be her priorities in the House. She said she’ll focus on issues like certificate of need, emergency funding for things like Zika, Medicaid and medical access. She said she’ll also lend her experience in education to lawmakers in Raleigh.
White and Nixon spoke Tuesday night by phone, with Nixon conceding the race and both candidates congratulating one another on clean campaigns, White said. She said she hopes Nixon will consider her door open to his input and ideas.
“We both felt we represented Clayton well and our roots well and can still be friends today,” White said. “I don’t want to burn bridges. ... I told him I have an open door in Raleigh, as I know he would have told me if he had won.”
On Election Day, White drove her 96-year-old father to his polling place at Hocutt Baptist Church because he wanted to cast his vote for his daughter in person. She kept the car on with the engine off, circulating air so long the battery died and needed a jump. But it appeared worth it.
“He’s the one who gave me my love of politics, so it was nice to share that moment with him,” White said.
House District 28
The House District 28 seat opened up when longtime Rep. J.H. Langdon retired.
Johnston voters had two choices in his stead: Democrat Patricia Oliver, a businesswoman who has run for office before, or Republican Larry Strickland of Pine Level, a longtime member of the Johnston County Board of Education.
Johnston County chose Strickland overwhelmingly, giving him 70.66 percent of the vote.
Strickland, 61, is an assistant right-of-way manager for the N.C. Department of Transportation. Also, he is owner of Strickland Appraisal Services and a co-owner of Strickland Brothers Farms. Strickland has been a member of the Johnston school board since 1998 and its chairman since 2008. He also served two terms on the Pine Level Board of Commissioners.
Strickland said he wanted to thank his campaign workers and the voters of Johnston for the opportunity to serve at the state level. He also thanked Langdon for his endorsement and for helping him succeed.
“I’m very humbled by the privilege the citizens of Johnston County have given me to go to Raleigh,” Strickland said Wednesday. “My focus will be to vote for all the citizens of Johnston County as well as the state of North Carolina.”
Strickland said he has four major focuses moving forward: education, agriculture, transportation and economic development.
“I want to work to make education better for the children of the state of North Carolina, especially here in Johnston County,” he said. “I also want to work on agriculture issues because agriculture is still the No. 1 industry in Johnston County.”
When it comes to education, Strickland said he’s intent on dealing with “unfunded mandates being pushed down to county school boards” and addressing “classroom resources to make sure that our teacher workforce in North Carolina is rewarded for their efforts.”
Strickland said transportation is a constant and growing issue in Johnston, and he wants to push road projects to help move traffic through the county. That includes alleviating congestion in the northwestern corner of the county along the Wake border.
“I commuted to Raleigh for 22 years myself, and I’ve realized we’ve got to continue to stay focused on improving the infrastructure of the highways in Johnston County,” Stricikland said.
Johnston has made great strides in landing large employers like drug makers Novo Nordisk and Grifols, Strickland said. He wants to “build on that work and work with small-business owners to make sure government stays out of their way and taxes stay low so they can continue to grow the businesses they started in Johnston County.”
As Strickland transitions to his state rep role, he’ll leave behind a vacancy on the school board. That board will name his successor.
Republican Rick Horner, a 14-year member of the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education, won Senate District 11 over Democrat Albert Pacer. Horner will take the seat vacated by Buck Newton, who looks to have lost his bid for North Carolina attorney general.
District 11 includes much of northern and western Johnston County, Wilson and Nash counties. District-wide, Horner took 61.18 of the vote and 60.66 percent in Johnston County.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Ronald Rabin, 84, of Spring Lake has held the N.C. Senate District 12 seat since 2012, and Johnston voters reelected him by a wide margin.
More than 57 percent of the vote went to Rabin, according to State Board of Elections results, giving him definitive win against Democrat Susan Byerly.
House District 26
Rich Nixon, D 41.96%
Donna White, R 58.04%
With 17 of 17 precincts reporting
House District 28
Patricia Oliver, D 29.34%
Larry Strickland, R 70.66%
With 20 of 20 precincts reporting