Farmer-Butterfield by a nose: Incumbent wins 9th term with Fontenot on her heels

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Only a couple hundred votes stood between state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield and an upset from an unaffiliated candidate and political newcomer during Tuesday’s midterm election.

Fifty percent of general election ballots were cast in favor of Farmer-Butterfield while independent challenger Ken Fontenot garnered 49 percent, according to unofficial election results.

“Tonight, Wilson County sand an emphatic ‘no’ to negativity, meanness and lies. Tonight we embraced positivity. We embraced Wilson County values and we didn’t lay down when the Republicans in Raleigh tried to walk all over our rights,” she said. “We stood up and said ‘no’ to tyranny and ‘yes’ to government by the people and for the people.

“...They thought they had me beat, but the people of Wilson County said, ‘No, not so fast. You had my back and now I stand to have yours.’”

Despite efforts by the N.C. Republican Party to plant seeds of doubt in voters’ minds over Farmer-Butterfield’s residency, the Wilson County native won a ninth consecutive state House term.

For his part, Fontenot said his strong showing speaks volumes.

“For an unaffiliated candidate who is not from Wilson County and not part of the good ol’ boys’ network and being outspent 5-to-1, this was an outstanding race and I’m not disappointed,” said Fontenot. “I want to say thank you to everyone for their time and effort.”

Farmer-Butterfield’s re-election was among a swell of Democratic victories that ended the Republican supermajority within the General Assembly and gave Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper back his veto power — an important change, according to Farmer-Butterfield.

“It puts the power back where it belongs — with the people,” she said. “It makes it less partisan and gives the governor the opportunity to have his administrative influence the priorities of the legislative branch.”

Fontenot said while he did have the GOP’s backing, he was proud to see so many ballots cast in favor of an unaffiliated candidate.

“The No. 1 feedback I received was that people liked my voice of common sense, they were looking for a change and fresh ideas,” he said. “Across the board, it was really phenomenal feedback to the ideas I had for the office.”

Farmer-Butterfield said she looks forward to heading back to Raleigh to continue fighting for Wilsonians and other residents of House District 24. She hopes to help form a caucus for eastern North Carolina and a citizen advisory council to prioritize legislative items raised by residents during recent listen and learn sessions.

“I want to make sure we try to work on teacher raises and better health care access for all,” she said.