In a formality overshadowed by the death of his opponent the previous day, a final count of votes on Tuesday confirmed that Clay Aiken will be the Democratic nominee running against Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers for Congress.
The canvassing of votes – a tally of Election Day plus absentee and provisional ballots in nine counties – came the day after runner-up Keith Crisco died in a fall at his home in Asheboro. The cause of his death has not been determined yet, but more details emerged Tuesday.
Crisco, 71, was returning home from running errands shortly before 1 p.m. Monday and opened a door to go inside when his wife heard him call out, according to a police report. She told police she found him lying in the doorway.
An emergency medical services crew called to the home saw that he was not breathing, and they were unable to revive him. EMS notified police that Crisco was dead when they arrived, and an officer went to the house and took a report.
The state medical examiner’s office has taken jurisdiction of the case. State law requires medical examiners be notified when it appears someone has died from an accident or violent injury.
The medical examiner determines whether an autopsy is warranted. That hasn’t been decided yet in Crisco’s case, said a spokeswoman with the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Deaths involving the elderly and that happen suddenly or without a well-documented illness are considered case by case, according to the state medical examiner guidelines.
A funeral for Crisco will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at the First United Methodist Church in Asheboro. The family will receive friends Thursday evening at Pugh Funeral Home.
Crisco’s death made the vote canvassing seem irrelevant. But he had already decided to concede the race to Aiken and had been planning to do so Tuesday morning, his longtime friend and political strategist Brad Crone said.
And indeed when total votes were counted, Aiken gained 21 votes over Crisco, giving him a 390-vote victory. He received 40.86 percent of the vote.
The outcome wasn’t a surprise, as there weren’t enough outstanding ballots to knock Aiken out of first place.
State elections officials said the situation was highly unusual. The law is clear on what happens if a candidate dies between filing for office and the primary election, and it covers what happens if a candidate dies after the primary but before the general election.
But this narrow area where the deceased candidate was in between is something state law doesn’t directly address. The law requires the runner-up to call for a recount if the vote difference is no more than 1 percent of the total vote or if total is under 40 percent, which would not have been possible in this case.
The State Board of Elections will certify the results of the election on May 22.
Aiken’s staff said Tuesday that he would not have a comment on the election results because he has suspended all campaign activities in observance of Crisco’s death.