HICKORY — Although 36th District Attorney candidate Scott Reilly was in the lead by at least 16 percent as the election results rolled in, he was still nervous.
A few minutes later, it was official. Reilly was elected to serve as the next district attorney, beating incumbent David Learner in the Republican primary. There is no Democrat opposition in the general election.
Surrounded by family, friends and supporters, Reilly said, “Nobody wanted this moment for me more than my son, Matthew.”
Matthew Reilly, 24, died last year after a motorcycle accident.
“I’m going to dedicate this victory to my son, Matthew,” Reilly added.
Throughout his speech, he took the time to thank each person who helped him campaign across Catawba, Caldwell and Burke counties.
It was a family effort, with his wife Beth’s sister taking charge of the campaign in Caldwell County.
“I am a lucky man because I have made friends for life and most of you are in this room,” Reilly said. “I will be forever grateful.”
He also remarked on the “mean-spirited talk” that came up during the campaign and said although it was not fun, he has tough skin.
“Tonight’s the time to heal. Tonight’s the time to put things in the past, shake hands, make friends and move on,” he added.
To conclude his victory speech, Reilly said he is 100 percent dedicated to making the drastic changes he thinks are needed in the DA’s office.
“I want nothing more than to improve our criminal justice system,” he said. “I want nothing more than to work with our attorneys.
“If there were anything that upset me more in this campaign is that our attorneys in Catawba County have been maligned and disrespected. There is no reason for that whatsoever.”
Reilly added he’s also dedicated to being the best advocate for victims of crime that he possibly can.
Pending canvassing for final primary election results, Learner will be a one-term district attorney.
With all precincts reporting Tuesday night, Learner said the citizens of Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties seemed to have expressed their wishes.
“About the only thing I can tell you is the voters have spoken,” Learner said.
Reilly ran against Learner and former District Attorney Jay Gaither in 2014.
In that race, Reilly won 37.64 percent of the vote in Catawba County, beating both of his opponents, but Learner and Gaither pulled out ahead of Reilly in Caldwell and Burke counties, knocking him out of the race.
In the 2018 Republican primary, Reilly beat Learner with 57.47 percent of the vote across all three counties in the district.
Catawba County overwhelmingly voted for Reilly at 65.2 percent. Learner won both Burke and Caldwell counties, but it wasn’t enough to earn the victory.
The Morganton News Herald contributed to this report.
Results are unofficial until canvassing is complete sometime next week.