Allison Dahle celebrates after defeating State House incumbent Duane Hall
Voters decided state Rep. Duane Hall, a Democrat facing sexual harassment allegations and calls to resign, should not have the chance to return to the legislature next year.
First-time candidate Allison Dahle trounced Hall in a state House primary, winning about 68 percent of the vote in unofficial returns.
Hall had been seeking a fourth term.
Dahle didn't expect to win, she admitted after she saw the returns. Hall spent about twice as much as she did and was considered the favorite.
And yet she was surrounded by a small crowd applauding her at her party at Fortnight Brewery in Cary.
"I think women are tired," Dahle said in an interview shortly after her victory speech. "I think there's a lot more to the story" than just the women quoted in the media, she said.
"This goes to show you can run a grassroots campaign and win," she said.
Hall has largely avoided interviews for the past few months. Most of the allegations against him were anonymous and published by N.C. Policy Watch, an arm of the left-leaning N.C. Justice Center. Early on, Hall said the report was the product of a personal vendetta. Policy Watch has stood by its reporting.
Soon after the allegations were reported, Hall said in a statement he wanted to let voters decide whether he should stay in office.
"My service is in the hands of the Democratic primary voters on May 8th," he wrote. "I will honorably accept their choice."
Early in the campaign, Dahle said she wasn't going to make an issue of the allegations, but she later changed her mind. State and national groups that back Democratic women pitched in to help her campaign.
Some voters at the Glenaire retirement community polling place said they had not heard about the allegations. Others said they considered the issue while they were deciding how to vote.
Bob Fields said he voted for Hall, but "not happily," because he worried about how the inexperienced Dahle would fare in the general election. He figured Hall would be the stronger candidate in November.
"Miss Dahle is such a newbie," said Fields, an 84-year-old retired minister.
Robert Campbell, 51, said he voted for Dahle over Hall. "He hasn't presented a credible case" with his silence and resignations from state commissions, said Campbell, an unaffiliated voter. "We've heard this song before. I believe women. That's all there is to it."
Karen Farley, 68, said she didn't know about the allegations until she arrived to vote Tuesday afternoon. The new information did not change her mind about voting for Hall.
Yvonne Dodson said she voted for Dahle because one of the candidate's poll workers was there handing out palm cards.
Voters taking Democratic ballots at this precinct were also selecting a state Senate candidate who will run in a new open seat.
In an election where information about the candidates was scarce, voters said they relied on candidate forums, Facebook ads and Indy Week endorsements to help them make up their minds.
Wiley Nickel, a Cary lawyer, defeated Luis Toledo, an analyst at the N.C. Justice Center. Nickel vastly outspent Toledo and counted as one of his attributes his ability to raise money to help Democrats win the state Senate.
Democratic voters in the district found their mailboxes stuffed with a steady stream of Nickel campaign mailers.
Campbell said he was inclined to vote for Toledo, a fellow veteran. "Nickel was certainly out early," Campbell said. "I didn't get that compelling of a story from him."
Fields, who heard the candidates speak at a forum, said he voted for Nickel.
"I think he has a little more traction, a little more expertise," Fields said. "I was put off by all the money he's spending on this thing."