Political fight simmers over state legislative seat

Watford to challenge Younts
Jul. 24, 2013 @ 11:32 AM

Republican County Commissioner Sam Watford said that he intends to challenge recently appointed state Rep. Roger Younts, R-Davidson, in next spring’s 80th State House District primary in the wake of Younts’ controversial appointment to the post earlier this month.

Younts, who filled the seat representing eastern Davidson County, succeeded former state legislator Jerry Dockham, who left the N.C. General Assembly July 1 to join the state Utilities Commission.

The way that Younts was appointed has stirred controversy in Davidson County Republican circles. At a meeting July 11 of the Davidson County GOP Executive Committee, Younts voted for himself to become a state representative. However, Younts and other members of the Executive Committee, which had the authority to appoint Dockham’s successor, blocked longtime Republican activist Dwight Story from casting a vote by phone call when he was out of town on a church trip to Virginia.

"I was with a church group in Wytheville, Va.," said  Story. "I told them I couldn't be there. They polled the group and said it'd be all right for me to have a phone call vote.

"When they got the meeting started, the group that won saw there were only six of us there to vote, so someone chose to make a motion not to accept the telephone vote."

Watford, who also sought the appointment to the legislative seat, said he plans to run for the 80th State House District in May’s GOP primary. That sets up a probable contest before the voters between Younts and Watford in the heavily Republican-leaning district.

Watford told The High Point Enterprise that the way that Younts was appointed influenced his decision to run for the 80th State House District.

“There’s a definite difference between us ethically,” Watford said Tuesday. “I would have went out of my way to make sure that everyone could vote (in the Executive Committee meeting), rather than try to hinder one of them from voting. I think that’s a difference that you just can’t overlook in us personally.”

Younts denies that any of his actions have been unethical.

“While I understand there was some controversy regarding the appointment, I believe the emotions of the moment have since passed. As far as I’m concerned, what happened in the past is done and over with, I have nothing further to say about it and I’m giving my full attention to my current duties as the representative of N.C. House District 80,” said Younts, who added that he intends to run for the seat next year.

Younts said that he’s received many calls and messages from Republicans locally and statewide congratulating him on his appointment.

But since the controversy over Younts’ appointment two weeks ago, Watford said he’s been approached by a number of Republicans  about running for the state legislative seat.

“I’ve got plenty of support — financial support and political support,” Watford said. “A lot of people are discouraged about the way this appointment came down.”

Watford said that he also plans to highlight his long years of public service to the county as a commissioner and in other capacities in running for the 80th State House District. He plans a formal announcement of his candidacy in the near future.

Younts said that he’s already adhering to conservative values in representing voters at the State Legislative Building in Raleigh.

“I feel like if I work hard and do a good job, re-election will take care of itself,” Younts told the Enterprise.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528

Times Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy contributed to this story.