Polk voters still favor GOP but Dems more competitive this year

Published 11:30 am Friday, November 7, 2008

Melton acknowledged that some of the Democrats&squo; success in local races this year can be attributed to the interest in federal and states races, particularly the presidential contest. But he added that members of the Polk Democratic Party have done &dquo;the small things&dquo; and displayed a unity that laid the groundwork for big gains this year.

&dquo;The momentum is massive,&dquo; said Melton. &dquo;I&squo;m so proud of what we&squo;ve done.&dquo;

Presidential preference

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While Republican candidates in state and national races were preferred in Polk County, the number of Polk County voters choosing the Democrat in the presidential contest this year increased by 41 percent over eight years ago.

This year, 1,280 more voters chose Barack Obama than voted for Sen. Al Gore in 2000. The Democratic percentage of the total presidential vote increased by 4 percent from 38 percent of the total Polk County vote for Gore to 42 percent for Obama.

The number of voters choosing the Republican presidential candidate this year also increased by 18 percent, or 912 votes, from 2000 to 2008.

During that same eight years, the number of registered Democratic voters actually decreased 11.5 percent, from 5,722 to 5,062, while the number of registered Republicans in the county decreased just 1 percent to 5,503. The number of voters who registered with neither party, unaffiliated, increased 53 percent to 4,408. Total voter registration in Polk County increased by 815, or nearly 6 percent, from 2000 to 2008.

National and statewide Republican candidates continue to do best in Polk County, winning the presidential contest here each year reviewed since 1996. In 1996, Bob Dole beat Bill Clinton here, 52 percent to 40 percent, with Ross Perot taking 7.3 percent. In 2000, Bush won 61 percent of Polk&squo;s vote, to 38 percent for Gore. In both 2004 (Bush/Kerry) and 2008 (McCain/Obama), 57 percent of the Polk County voters chose the Republican presidential candidate, as compared to 42 percent for the Democrat.

Obama&squo;s 4,394 votes here underperformed the party registration by 668 votes, while McCain&squo;s total of 5,986 votes was 483 more than the number of registered Republicans.

Reverse in local race

However, in the races for the Polk County Board of Commissioners this year, the Democrats turned those ratios upside down.

The three Democrats appear to have swept all three county board seats, with one contest too close to call until all provisional ballots have been counted. The top vote-getter among the Republicans, Ted Owens, received 527 fewer votes than the total number of registered Republicans in the county, and 1,010 fewer votes than John McCain received in Polk County.

By contrast, Democrat Cindy Walker received 39 more votes than the number of registered Democrats in the county, and 707 more votes than president-elect Barack Obama.

Straight party voters

More Polk voters this year chose a straight Democratic Party ticket than straight Republican Party ticket, even though there are fewer registered Democrats in the county. According to election results, about 25 percent of the people who voted in Polk County cast a straight Democratic party ballot, and about 23 percent cast a straight Republican party ballot.

Overall, the Polk County elections office received 10,784 ballots, representing a turnout of about 71 percent. Turnout was highest in the Saluda, Columbus 2 (ICC) and Green Creek precincts. The turnout in Polk County exceeded the statewide turnout of about 69 percent.

Below is a review of the unofficial results in Polk County and North Carolina for the races that were on the Polk ballot.

U.S. President

The Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden picked up 15 delegates in North Carolina, prevailing with a margin of 13,692 votes as of Thursday afternoon. The final margin may change slightly once canvassing is complete, but AP determined there are not enough provisional ballots remaining for McCain to make up the deficit.

In Polk County, voters backed McCain with 57 percent of the vote while Obama received 42 percent.

McCain fared particularly well in Coopers Gap precinct where he received 76 percent of the vote. McCain also won in Green Creek with 61 percent, White Oak with 61 percent, Columbus-1 (PCHS) with 58 percent, Columbus-2 (ICC) with 58 percent, and Saluda with 57 percent.

Obama&squo;s only victory in Polk County came in the Tryon precinct with 54 percent of the vote.

U.S. Senate

Democrat Kay Hagan won the election statewide with 53 percent, while Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole received 44 percent.

Hagan lost to Dole by only 80 votes in Polk County, receiving 47 percent. Hagan won in both the Tryon and Columbus-1 (PCHS) precincts with 57 percent and 50 percent, respectively. She trailed by small margins in Green Creek and White Oak, but struggled in Coopers Gap with just 33 percent of the vote there.

U.S. House District 11

Incumbent Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler had no trouble winning a second term, sweeping all 15 counties in the 11th district. He captured 62 percent of the vote districtwide, while Republican Carl Mumpower received 36 percent.

In Polk County, Shuler won with 59 percent, and Mumpower received 38 percent.

Shuler won in every precinct in Polk County and had the strongest support in the Tryon precinct with 66 percent and in the Columbus-1 precinct (PCHS) with 61 percent.

Shuler said he &dquo;can&squo;t be more pleased&dquo; with the support he received, and added that the Democratic Party has a big responsiblity to uphold after picking up more seats in the Senate and House.

&dquo;I think that it is obvious when you have a victory like this there comes great responsibility,&dquo; said Shuler. &dquo;We have to put the American people first.&dquo;

Mumpower noted that he lost by about the same percentage as other Republican Congressional challengers, but spent a lot less money.

&dquo;We also walked away with no obligations to lobbyists, party handlers, or special interests,&dquo; said Mumpower, an Asheville city councilman who ran a low-budget campaign. &dquo;We campaigned very hard and never lied, pandered, or indulged the public. We took on wrongs with candor and stood for something that people could count on ‐ whether they agreed or not.&dquo;

N.C. Governor

Democrat Bev Perdue prevailed statewide with 50 percent of the vote. Republican Pat McCrory received 47 percent. McCrory, Mayor of Charlotte, lost by 350 votes in his home county of Mecklenburg.

McCrory did slightly better in Polk County, winning with 49 percent of the vote. Perdue received 47 percent.

N.C. House District 113

Republican David Guice edged Democrat Tom Thomas in the district with 51 percent of the vote. He won by 551 votes, according to election results as of Thursday afternoon.

Guice won both Polk County and the southern portion of Henderson County that is included in the district. Thomas, a resident of Brevard, won in Transylvania County.

Polk voters favored Guice by a margin of 619 votes, enough to give him the victory in the district.

Guice had his strongest support in Coopers Gap precinct with 69 percent. Thomas won only in the Tryon precinct where he received 58 percent.

&dquo;I am ready to roll my sleeves up and get to work on behalf of the people of my district and indeed all of North Carolina,&dquo; said Guice, who has served for more than 30 years with the N.C. Department of Correction and eight years as a Transylvania County commissioner. &dquo;It is important that we restore the voice of the people to the halls of our state government.&dquo;

Other state results

The statewide results of other races on the Polk ballot are as follows:

N.C. Lt. Governor: Walter Dalton (D) 51 percent, Robert Pittenger (R) 46 percent, Phillip Rhodes (L) 3 percent.

Attorney General: Roy Cooper (D) 61 percent, Bob Crumley (R) 39 percent.

Auditor: Beth Wood (D) 54 percent, Leslie Merritt (R) 46 percent.

Commissioner of Agriculture: Ronnie Ansley (D) 48 percent, Steve Troxler (R) 52 percent)

Commissioner of Insurance: Wayne Goodwin (D) 52 percent, John Odom (R) 46 percent, Mark McMains (L) 4 percent.

Commissioner of Labor: Mary Fant Donnan (D) 49 percent, Cherie Berry (R) 51 percent.

Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall (D) 57 percent, Jack Sawyer (R) 43 percent.

Supt. of Public Instruction: June St. Clair Atkinson (D) 54 percent, Richard Morgan (R) 46 percent.

Treasurer: Janet Cowell (D) 54 percent, Bill Daughtridge (R) 46 percent.

N.C. Senate District 48: Tom Apodaca (R) 100 percent.

Supreme Court Associate Justice (Edmunds Seat): Robert Edmunds 51 percent, Suzanne Reynolds 49 percent.

Court of Appeals Judge (Martin seat): John C. Martin 100 percent.

Court of Appeals Judge (Wynn seat): Jewel Ann Farlow 46 percent, James Wynn 54 percent.

Court of Appeals Judge (Tyson seat): Sam Ervin, IV 53 percent, Kristin Ruth 47 percent.

Court of Appeals Judge (McCullough seat): Cheri Beasley 57 percent, Doug McCullough 43 percent.

Court of Appeals Judge (Stephens seat): Dan Barrett 41 percent, Linda Stephens 59 percent.

Court of Appeals Judge (Arrowwood seat): John Arrowood 46 percent, Robert Hunter, Jr. 54 percent.

District Court Judge District 29B (Brittain seat): T. McAvoy (Mack) Brittain Jr. 100 percent.

District Court Judge District 29B (Cilley seat): Ronald Justice&bsp; Jr. 47 percent, Peter Knight 53 percent.

Uncontested Polk races

In uncontested local races in Polk County, Sheila Whitmire was reelected as Registrar of Deeds, Melanie Talbot was reelected to the Polk County Board of Education for Saluda Township, Rick Covil was reelected to the Polk school board for Tryon Township and Cindy Allen was reelected to the school board for White Oak Township.

Frank Smith was reelected to the Soil and Water Board of Supervisors.