LAURINBURG — Exultant cheering erupted in Courtroom Two of the Scotland County Courthouse on Tuesday night after results of the Laurinburg mayoral election showed Matthew Block to be the victor.
Block defeated incumbent Mayor Tommy Parker in a rematch between the two, with 1,446 votes to Parker’s 981. Parker served one term as mayor after defeating Block in 2011.
Block thanked voters, his wife Jennifer, and others instrumental to his campaign as dozens of supporters stifled their cheers to listen in reverent silence.
A heart specialist in practice at Scotland Cardiology, Block has been a Laurinburg resident since 2001. He campaigned on his performance in his prior term as mayor — during which the city initiated input sessions for the public, formed the Laurinburg Beautification Committee, hired Ed Burchins as city manager, and increased the number of monthly city council meetings.
“It was a lot of work and effort and money, and it’s good to have it over with,” Block said of the campaign.
Block has also promised to push for a reduction in the city’s utility rates and prioritize building a recreation center in the city limits above constructing a new city hall.
“This is not about me, but about the positions on these issues that my campaign represented,” Block said. “I hope that city council will use the time between now and when I take office to take a fresh look at things, now that the citizens have spoken.”
Appearing as shaken by his loss as Block was in victory, Parker moved through the crowded courthouse to shake Block’s hands.
“Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose,” conceded the outgoing mayor. “I hope he can do what he promised. I wish him well.”
In Tuesday’s voting, Block topped the polls at the Scotland County Annex, the Washington Park Learning Center, and at the East Laurinburg precinct. Parker had the lead at Scotland Place and the National Guard Armory.
Block went into Tuesday with a substantial lead after early voting, with 840 votes to Parker’s 475. One-stop saw the highest voter turnout on Oct. 30, with 303 of 1,370 total early voters hitting the polls.
On that day, both the Parker and Block campaigns set up shop across the street from the Scotland County Board of Elections to distribute free chicken and fish plates — a move that left a sour taste in the mouth of Elections Director Dell Parker.
“This is nothing but my own personal opinion, but I think that it is very, very sad that elections have come to the point where people have to give away something free to convince people to come out and vote,” Dell Parker said. “Our forefathers, such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Susan B. Anthony fought for our right to come to a poll and people take that right for granted.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.