A clean sweep: NC, Polk voters choose Republicans in 2022 midterms
Published 9:33 am Friday, November 11, 2022
Tuesday’s midterm election results could only best be described as a Republican sweep across county, state and federal races, with Polk County’s voters helping to deliver Republican victories from county commission to Congress.
Polk’s Nov. 8 voter turnout was 57.97 percent, according to unofficial results. Polk has 16,482 registered voters. Of the 9,555 ballots cast, approximately 62 percent were cast early and absentee, and 38 percent were cast on Election Day, Nov. 8.
Statewide voter turnout was 50.53 percent. Out of 7,412,050 registered voters, 3,745,600 cast ballots Tuesday.
Polk County Board of Commissioners
Three Republican county commissioner incumbents, Tommy Melton, David Moore, and Paul (Little) Beiler, held back their Democratic challengers Ray Gasperson and Andy Millard in a race for three board seats. Gasperson’s lead early in the night from absentee and early votes quickly dissipated as the seven precincts’ results rolled in. Except for Tryon precinct, Commissioners Melton, Moore and Beiler held the top three spots all night.
Melton finished the night with 22.67 percent (5,278 votes), Moore with 21.94 percent (5,108 votes), Beiler with 20.80 percent (4,842 votes), Gasperson with 18.17 percent (4,230 votes), and Millard with 16.43 percent (3,826 votes).
In a statement to the Bulletin, Melton thanked the community for support for his re-election, writing, “I am grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the citizens of Polk County. We have accomplished many good things, and will continue to work hard for all of you. This is truly a wonderful place to live, work, worship and raise a family. We must retain that “small town feel” while providing great job opportunities for those seeking them.”
Moore also provided a statement to the Bulletin. “I would like to thank the voters of Polk County for their support. Looking forward to serving all citizens of Polk County and working for you these next four years as your commissioner. It’s been an honor serving you over these last few years. Again, I would like to say thank you Polk County for your continued support.”
“Of course I’m extremely disappointed in the outcome,” Millard wrote in a statement to the Bulletin. “I’m very proud of the campaign we ran: our positive message of planning ahead to keep the county rural and head off overdevelopment, plus ideas to increase our sense of community by looking into building a pavilion similar to the one in Landrum for the farmers market, and maybe creating a Polk County fair. I’m incredibly grateful for the many friends who participated in my campaign either by contributing money or volunteering in many different ways, and I especially appreciate all of the Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for me. Several told me that I was the first Democrat they had ever voted for, and I would like to have had a chance to justify their faith in me. I congratulate the reelected commissioners and wish them only the best. My optimism for this wonderful community remains intact.”
Polk County Schools Board of Education
The other closely scrutinized local race was for 5 seats on the nonpartisan Board of Education. Incumbents managed to hold on to all five seats, but not without some jostling back and forth for position in Green Creek, Saluda and Tryon.
Long time board member Judy Jackson won her Cooper Gap Township seat handily, sweeping all precincts and in absentee and early voting, with 73.70 percent of the votes cast.
Tryon Township challenger Jolene Williams gave incumbent board chair Mike Ashworth a run for his money in election day voting, besting him in 6 of 7 precincts, however, he was able to overcome her lead with early and absentee votes. Ashworth garnered 4,057 votes (54.02 percent of the votes) while Williams received 3,428 votes.
Green Creek Township challenger Jason Allen also had an impressive election day sweep taking first place in all seven precincts; however, he too could not overcome incumbent Sherry Horne Page’s lead from early and absentee votes. Page holds on to her long-held seat with 35.05 percent of the vote (2,661 votes) to Allen’s 31.64 percent (2,402 votes). Sydney Holbert finished third with 1,506 votes and Brittany Klimstra finished fourth with 1,000 votes.
For the Saluda seat, Robin Atkins Wierzbicki had incumbent Rob Parsons looking over his shoulder throughout election day. Wierzbicki bested Parsons in 5 of 7 precincts on election day, but in the end, was not able to overcome his lead in early and absentee voting. Parsons will retain his seat with 3,804 votes (or 49.04 percent of the vote). Wierzbicki finished with 2,904 votes, German Ruiz with 733 votes, and Rick Stich with 299 votes. Stich withdrew from the race in October.
In a statement provided to the Bulletin, Parsons says that he is “honored by the support of Polk County voters and will work hard on behalf of students, faculty, and staff in Polk County Schools. I intend to do my best to uphold my belief that better schools make a better community for everyone in our county. The Polk County School Board is an example of community cooperation.”
Wierzbicki stated that she is “grateful for the opportunity to run for The Polk County Board of Education. I appreciate all those who supported me and am thankful for the wonderful, new friendships I have forged and old friendships I have renewed.”
Danielle Gibbs, incumbent in the Columbus Township seat, ran unopposed. She received 5,676 votes. She says, “I am humbled and proud to continue serving the students and staff of Polk County Schools. I’m looking forward to a great four years and am excited about the future!”
Sheriff Tim Wright will serve another term. He ran unopposed and garnered 6,970 votes. Clerk of Court Pam Hyder, a Democrat, will serve another term as well. She ran unopposed, securing 6,280 votes.
Republicans won all six statewide judicial races.
In the Supreme Court race, Republican Richard Dietz beat Democrat Lucy Inman for seat 3, and Republican Trey Allen won over Democrat Sam J. Ervin IV for seat 5, shifting the balance of the court from Democratic to Republican. Republicans will control the state’s highest court until at least 2028. Polk County selected Dietz by 61 percent, and Allen by 60 percent.
The four Court of Appeals seats went to Republicans Julie Tate Flood, Donna Stroud, John Tyson and Michael Stading. Polk voters selected Republican judges by 60 percent margins.
In the state legislature, all 170 seats were up for re-election, including 50 in the Senate and 120 in the House. Republicans gained seats in both chambers of the General Assembly, including a veto-proof majority of 30 seats in the Senate, and 71 of the 120 seats in the House, one short of a super-majority. Republicans would need a super-majority to have veto-proof control of the legislature.
In the recently redrawn NC Senate District 48 which includes Polk, Henderson and Rutherford counties, Republican Tim Moffit won handily over Jay Carey. District-wide Moffitt garnered 64.95 percent of the vote; in Polk he garnered 61.39 percent.
Republican Jake Johnson, District 113 representative to the NC House, ran unopposed. He received 6,610 votes in Polk and 27,175 district-wide. The district also includes Henderson and Transylvania counties.
Republican Andrew Murray ran unopposed for district attorney, 42nd prosecutorial district. He received 6,167 votes from Polk and 51,624 district-wide.
The eyes of the nation were on North Carolina’s senate race Tuesday evening, as Trump-endorsed Rep. Ted Budd secured the seat of retiring GOP Senator Richard Burr. His Democratic opponent was Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, who despite having a fundraising advantage, fell short.
In Polk County, Budd secured 5,669 votes to Beasley’s 3,600. Statewide, Budd swept 79 of the state’s 100 counties with 1,891,363 votes, or 50.71 percent. Beasley captured 1,755,743 votes, or 47.08 percent.
The race for the congressional seat vacated due to Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s loss in the May primary was also a sweep. Of District 11’s 15 counties, Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara won only one, Buncombe. State Senator Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville earned 173,706 votes, or 53.94 percent, to Beach-Ferrara’s 142,910 (44.37 percent). In Polk, Edwards earned 60.73 percent of the vote to Beach-Ferrara’s 37.6 percent.