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Racial justice advocates see wins in Elizabeth City elections

 About 50 protesters marching on foot along Ehringhaus Street in Elizabeth City. More protesters following in cars.
About 50 protesters marching on foot along Ehringhaus Street in Elizabeth City. More protesters following in cars.

In Elizabeth City, activists have waited more than a year to get to the ballot box. On Tuesday, they made their voices heard, electing candidates up and down the city's council.

"I'm overjoyed that change is coming," said Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank County NAACP. "That there are more and more people involved in the political process. That people can now go from marching in the streets when there's an injustice to carrying it to the voting polls."

The shooting of Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed by Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office deputies last year, hung over the election. Kirk Rivers, Keith Rivers' brother, led marches after Brown's death, and on Tuesday was elected mayor.

On Wednesday, he said he wanted to bring unity to the city.

"Elizabeth City is one strong city," Kirk Rivers said. "All human lives matter. All businesses matter. (Make sure) all neighborhoods are safe."

Rivers faced sitting councilwoman Jeannie Young, a moderate Republican, and Christina Williams, who ran a campaign built on greater support for the sheriff's office. In the end, Rivers won more votes by himself, 1,340, than Young, 964, and Williams, 356, combined, according to unofficial results.

Williams said she will shift to supporting conservative candidates through Pasquotank PAC, which she founded, and that she plans to keep a cordial relationship with Rivers.

"I know his heart is in the right place, and that he is going to try his best to do what we need to do to fix Elizabeth City," Williams said.

This was the general election in Elizabeth City, not a primary, so winners will take office after the board of elections certifies the results next Friday. Candidates supported by activists also won city council seats.

The county held primary elections. Sheriff Tommy Wooten ran unopposed on the Republican side, as did Democratic challenger Eddie Graham, a veteran of the Elizabeth City Police Department. They will face each other in the November general election.

Former District Attorney Andrew Womble, who did not press charges against the sheriff's deputies who killed Brown, is running for Superior Court judge in the First Judicial District. He ran unopposed in the GOP primary and faces incumbent Democrat Eula Reid in November.

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.

Jason deBruyn is the WUNC data reporter, a position he took in September, 2016.