Washington claims victory in Greensboro

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Though the poll count showed Vanessa Hill ahead, supporters of Johnny Washington gathered across the street from a locked City Hall in Greensboro a couple of hours before the count was announced and awaited the results of Tuesday night’s election, confident enough of the outcome to refer to Johnny “J.B.” Washington as “Mayor Washington.”

And apparently they were right, as the final count including absentees showed Washington with a lead of 90 votes. Current Mayor John E. Owens announced the final count to a packed, standing-room-only City Hall lobby.

“Votes from the polls, for Vanessa Hill we have 620, J.B. Washington we have 511. Absentee votes, Vanessa Hill we have 52, J.B. Washington we have 251 for a total of 672 for Vanessa Hill and 762 for Johnny Washington.”

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An eruption of screams, shouts and applause drowned out Owens last remark, “Johnny Washington will be your next mayor.”

The crowd pushed its way outside, spilling onto the sidewalks and into the street, filling the air with shouts of “Mayor Washington” and chanting “J.B.” Car horns blared and it took much effort on the part of Washington’s campaigners to quiet the crowd enough to let the soon-to-be mayor talk.

A quiet, almost reserved Johnny Washington thanked God for the win, and had only one thing to say about his upcoming term as mayor of Greensboro.

“We plan to be the mayor for all the people, everybody,” he said.

Vanessa Hill has other plans, however, as she plans to contest the race.

“We have challenged 12 of the votes at the polls and 185 absentee ballots,” she said. With only a 90-vote deficit, if enough of those challenged votes are thrown out, it could change the results of the election.

“It ain’t over,” Hill said. “We will contest the votes.”

The Aug. 24 election is already under a microscope by the attorney general’s office because of complaints of irregular and improper votes. According to Hill supporters, many absentee voters lived outside the city, listing addresses that did not exist.

The attorney general had representatives in town throughout the last couple of weeks, and even Tuesday, attempting to enforce the voter regulations and trying to determine if any wrongdoing was present.

Washington said Monday before the election that the attorney general’s people had been “knocking on doors, telling people they couldn’t vote,” and were “threatening to take names off the voters list.”

Whether that was done could not be confirmed Tuesday night, but as the results stood at 9:30, Washington was the clear winner.

Elected officials will be sworn in Oct. 4.