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Gaither DA race highlights today’s runoff elections

Jay Gaither’s hotly contested bid to win a fourth term as District Attorney in three foothills counties highlights a number of races at stake Tuesday in runoff elections across the region.

Gaither, 51, of Hickory, faces former assistant district attorney David Learner, a Morganton lawyer, in the Republican election for DA in a district that covers Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties.

Allegations against Gaither have turned the race into a major statewide story.

But there also are elections Tuesday in a number of counties across the area, including Anson, Catawba, Cleveland and Union.

As is the case in the Gaither-Learner race, many of Tuesday’s runoff elections will actually decide a winner in the race, with no competition on the ballot in the November general election.

Voting began at 6:30 a.m., and the polls will stay open until 7:30 p.m.

Here is a look at the races on Tuesday’s ballot for the region:

DISTRICT ATTORNEY ... Gaither has been under attack from opponents for being too easy on defendants in trials, but the big story in recent weeks was a federal sexual harassment claim filed by former assistant DA Whitney Nicole Shaffer against Gaither.

Gaither, meanwhile, has claimed that Learner has not been carrying an active case load recently, and that Learner was involved in a pyramid scheme several years ago.

In the May primary, Learner got 39.39 percent of the votes, narrowly missing victory. Gaither was second with 31.09 percent, with Conover’s Scott Reilly finishing third with 29.52 percent.

N.C. HOUSE DISTRICT 95 ... Democrats Gardenia Henley of Winston-Salem and Josh Brannon of Vilas (in Watauga County) compete for the right to face Republican John Fraley of Mooresville in November. This is a sprawling district, stretching from the Piedmont to the mountains. It covers all or parts of Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Catawba, Iredell, Rowan, Watauga and Wilkes counties.

ANSON SHERIFF ... Tommy Allen, who has the longest tenure of any active North Carolina sheriff, is not seeking re-election this year. Today’s runoff between Democrats Landric Reid of Wadesboro and Mike Smith of Peachland will decide the election, with no Republican filed in November.

In the May primary, Reid got 39.6 percent of the vote, to 33.6 percent for Smith. Two other candidates trailed.

AVERY COUNTY COMMISSIONER ... Two Newland candidates, Kenny Regan Poteat and Faith Lacey, square off.

CATAWBA COUNTY CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT ... With no Democrat running in November, Tuesday’s runoff between Republicans Kim Sigmon of Conover and Tammy Huffman West of Newton will decide who will replace Al Jean Bogle, who is not seeking re-election.

In the May primary, Sigmon led the four-way race with 38.83 percent. West got 29.72 percent.

CLEVELAND COUNTY CORONER ... Randy Walker of Boiling Springs faces Tott Griffin of Shelby in the Democratic runoff. The winner faces Republican Robert Morgan in the fall. In May, Walker led a four-way race with 37.33 percent, followed by Griffin with 32.86 percent.

RUTHERFORD COUNTY CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT ... Republicans Tammy Aldridge and Steve Owens, both of Rutherfordton, face off Tuesday.

UNION COUNTY COMMISSIONER ... A pair of former county commissioners, Stony Rushing of Monroe and Tracy Kuehler of Waxhaw, are on the Republican ballot Tuesday. In May, Rushing finished third in a nine-candidate race with 12.82 percent, to 12.54 percent for Kuehler.

With no Democratic foe in November, Tuesday’s winner will be elected. The top two finishers in the May primary, Jerry Simpson and Lance Simpson, already have won election.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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