Wooten gets slimmest of victories in gaining Dist. 1 nod

By Chris Berendt

May 8, 2014

Clark Wooten is one step closer to being Jarvis McLamb’s successor in Sampson County’s 1st district, earning the Republican nod for the commissioners seat in the narrowest of margins Tuesday night.

As Wooten sat and shared a laugh with the man who gave him his endorsement months — and years — ago, Wooten said he was thankful for his supporters but mindful that the journey for a Board of Commissioners seat was not complete. Accepting congratulations in the second floor conference room of the Social Services building as the final returns flashed across the monitors, Wooten said he was excited.

“I’m humbled and honored by the people of District 1 to give me the opportunity to represent them in the fall election,” Wooten said. “It’s been one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve ever been through. I’ve learned a lot.”

Wooten won Tuesday’s Republican primary by a mere 27 votes, garnering 662 votes to fellow challenger Danny Jackson’s 635, taking 51 percent of the tally in the narrowest of local races on election night.

Wooten took Plain View in a 251-176 vote, his biggest victory, while also earning wins in the Westbrook, Newton Grove and Giddensville districts. Jackson bettered Wooten in Clement and Mingo by votes of 96-46 and 243-202, respectively.

“It is definitely premature,” Wooten said of the celebration. “I’ll say this. If they certify and I win, it won’t be because of me. It’ll be because of the people in this room right here. They are the ones. I had an awesome group of volunteers.”

McLamb has been one of those supporters and is already looking forward to Wooten stepping into his shoes.

“I’m as happy as I can be,” the longtime commissioner said. “I thought it would probably be pretty close, but I still thought he would pull it out. Clark is a good man. I think this will be good for the county, absolutely. Clark is smart and he doesn’t beat around the bush. He gets to the point and he’ll carry it out too.”

At the beginning of this year, McLamb introduced and endorsed Wooten as candidate for the District 1 seat, which McLamb has held since December 1998. Following some health issues last year, he said it was time to hand over the reins.

“I’ve been on there long enough,” McLamb said Tuesday. “It was time for somebody else. He might not be as outspoken as I am, but I’m not wanting him to — I just want him to be Clark, and knowing him, he will be.”

While tempering his own celebration, Wooten said he could not help but think about the prospect of being the next commissioner for District 1, which will have a new representative for the first time in 16 years.

“I’m excited for the challenge,” Wooten said. “There’s a lot of tough things facing this county and there will be tough decisions. It will not be easy. We’re going to have to work.”

While scoring a victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary, Wooten is not in yet, but his prospects are favorable in the county’s Republican-leaning district. Wooten will face Democrat Brent Baggett in November. Baggett did not face anybody in Tuesday’s primary.

“Hey, prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Wooten asserted. “We’re not taking anything for granted. It will be a tough fight in the fall. We have to start today.”

A Sampson County Schools product and UNC-Wilmington graduate, Wooten owns and operates turfgrass production company Tri-State Turf Inc., which began as a one-man operation 30 years ago in the Spivey’s Corner area at Timothy crossroads. His grandfather farmed land and ran a country store at the location, and Wooten’s business still operates there today.

Wooten is married to wife Linda and the couple have two children, Houston and Celia. Family, friends and supporters surrounded Wooten Tuesday, with McLamb and his wife Joyce were among them.

“There’s no one I’d rather have in there than Clark,” McLamb attested. “He was the man from day one, and he’s the man right on.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.