Attorney Hampton Dellinger won overwhelming support Tuesday from Durham Democratic Party leaders, who voted to recommend him to fill the vacant seat of former Commissioner Becky Heron. Heron, 83, resigned earlier this month due to health issues.
After three rounds of voting, Dellinger had beat out three other nominees: former planning commissioner Wendy Jacobs, social worker Anita Daniels and Duke University professor Will Wilson. The four candidates had asked the Durham County Democratic Party to be named the party's nominee to fill Heron's seat. State law requires the successor be of the same party as the departing official.
Two additional applicants, former banker Pam Karriker and sheriff's office Capt. Rickey Padgett, had also notified the Democratic Party they were seeking the seat, but were not considered Tuesday night. Karriker was unexpectedly called out of town, a party officer said, and Padgett did not receive the required nomination from a member of the party's executive committee, although he attended the meeting.
The votes were cast by members of the Durham County Democratic Party's executive committee of more than 100 people, including party officers, elected officials, and precinct leaders. The votes of most participants were weighted based on the size of the precinct. In the final round, Dellinger had earned 248.5 of 388 possible points, a clear majority over 139.5 points for Jacobs.
Dellinger's nomination doesn't necessarily make him a shoo-in for the seat. The final decision on who will serve the rest of Heron's term, which expires in 2012, will be made by the four remaining members of the Board of County Commissioners. The board is not obligated to take the recommendation of the Democratic Party.
"I completely understand there are four voters left, and it's their decision," Dellinger said. "But this was a broad cross section of the Democratic Party, and indeed of Durham. ... I'm humbled by the support I've received," Dellinger said as fellow party members congratulated him after the vote. Dellinger, a former North Carolina deputy attorney general, ran for N.C. Lieutenant Governor in 2008. Read a detailed questionnaire from that race.
Earlier this month, commissioners decided to hold their own interview and selection process apart from that of the Democratic Party. Commissioners are scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday to review the nine applications they have received from Dellinger, Daniels, Karriker, Wilson, Jacobs, and Padgett. In addition, the commissioners received letters from real estate agent Toni Kemble, retired nurse Jane Redoble and Jane Volland, the retired former director of the state's Guardian ad Litem program.
County commissioners are scheduled to hold interviews beginning at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6. The board also tentatively set a date to vote on the matter on Monday, Sept. 12. The board has a regularly scheduled meeting that night.