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Veteran school and county leaders fall in Johnston

In Tuesday's primaries, Johnston County voters favored challengers over incumbents for county commissioner and school board.
In Tuesday's primaries, Johnston County voters favored challengers over incumbents for county commissioner and school board.

In Johnston County on Tuesday, primary losses were as notable as the wins.

Longtime county commissioner Allen Mims fell well short of winning the Republican Party nomination in District 7, and veteran school board member Butler Hall failed to advance to the November election.

Mims, a five-term commissioner, lost to Clayton Councilman Butch Lawter, who ran a highly visible campaign.

In the closest race for Johnston commissioner, Republican incumbent Chad Stewart appeared to survive a challenge from political newcomer Dickie Braswell in District 3. Stewart, a son of the late commissioner Wade Stewart, captured 4,351 votes, or just 28 more than Braswell, in unofficial returns.

The District 5 GOP race was close too, with retired Smithfield firefighter Patrick Harris edging Cleveland Fire Department chief Chris Ellington 4,241 to 3,938.

In District 6, former commissioner Tony Braswell won the GOP nod to fill the unexpired term of Keith Branch, who resigned after less than a year in office. Branch said the demands of a new job would not allow him to serve.

Last fall, commissioners appointed Smithfield accountant Lee Jackson to serve in Branch's place, but Jackson was unable to win his party's nomination on Tuesday. Braswell advanced handily, 5,362 to 3,073.

This fall, Lawter will face Democrat Gracie Chamblee in the general election. Harris, Ellington and Stewart have no opposition in November, so their elections seem assured.

Johnston's school board elections are nonpartisans, and on Tuesday, eight candidates sought to be among the six who advanced to November, when voters will choose three school leaders.

Hall, a three-term school board member, finished seventh. The other candidate to come up short was retired school counselor John Radford.

The winners on Tuesday, in order of finish, were retired teacher Terri Sessoms, incumbent Dorothy Johnson, incumbent Todd Sutton, real estate agent Jason Barbour, former school system employee Jimmy P. Clapp Jr. and former teacher Tracie N. Zukowski.

Scott Bolejack: 919-829-4629, @ScottBolejack
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