Predicting how North Carolinians will vote can be a challenge.
Today the two party system is usually defined in terms of “liberal” (Democrats) and “conservative” (Republicans), mainly around each parties’ stance on moral issues. Since North Carolina is part of the Bible Belt, the policies of the Republican party appeal to a lot of voters even if the rest of the party’s platform is against their best interests.
But historically this was much different. After the US Civil War, Reconstruction was pretty harsh on the South due mainly to policies of the Republican party. Thus for a very long time the South was a stronghold for Democrats. In Chatham County where I live, public office elections were decided at the primary, since Republicans didn’t have a chance in the general election.
With more and more people in the state identifying with the conservative social policies of the Republicans, this is changing. Right now many elections are a toss up.
Chatham County is run by a Board of five commissioners who serve four year terms. This year three seats were up for election and in 2016 the other two will be up. Each commissioner represents one of the five districts in the county, and they have to live in their district, but people from any district can vote for each seat. In 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction, three Republicans won their seats: Brian Bock, Pam Stewart and Walter Petty, and thus held a majority position on the Board.
Fast forward to 2014 and those three people were up for re-election. Walter Petty in District 5 was unopposed, but both Bock and Stewart lost by a 5% margin.
See, toss up.
I’m not sure what happened this election. I didn’t have any issues, really, with the Republican led Board. Soon the possibility of hydraulic fracturing will arrive in Chatham and since I’m against it I am a little more comfortable with Democratic control of the Board, but they did little to piss me off.
Note: while I’ll save my fracking discussion for later, I’m certain that it can help us as a country satisfy our growing appetite for energy. I’m equally certain that the companies involved will cut so many corners in the name of profit that it will be an unparalleled ecological disaster. As I get my water out of the ground this concerns me.
What did piss me off is that both groups, Democrats and Republicans, ran as a block. While it does save money on signs and mailings, this implied that they would vote together. Chatham is a diverse county and I would rather it be represented by five individuals, and not a triumvirate.
It was quite clear to pretty much everyone that Brian Bock was the leader of the crew. I had no complaint with his term, but disliked the fact that he moved here and immediately ran for office, like a carpetbagger. You can tell by his demeanor that he had has higher offices in mind. This loss will set those plans back a bit, since who gets nominated is more a question of whose turn it is than who is most qualified, and to get in that line you really need to demonstrate you can be re-elected.
Anyway, I think the county should strongly consider limiting voting for each seat to those in that district. It would lend itself to a more diverse and independent Board.
The only race I really cared about was Sheriff. I think Richard Webster does a great job, and I was shocked to see him losing two votes to one on the WRAL election site. Turns out they had the totals backwards, and he actually won re-election two votes to one, which made me happy.
I would have loved to seen Renee Ellmers lose. It’s hard to describe my dislike of her performance on a public blog, but running Clay Aiken, an openly gay man, against her was doomed from the start. It’s just not something the majority of the electorate is willing to accept at the moment, and I would have much rather seen Keith Crisco on the ballot. Unfortunately his sudden death removed the chance for an old-school Democratic vote against the incumbent. Not only was he part of that tradition, he did have much more political experience than Aiken.
The months before the election was like watching an episode of the Jerry Springer Show, with lots of yelling and throwing of things. Maybe I’m getting too old (hey, get off my lawn) but things used to seem more civil. There seemed to be more focus on the issues. For example, Bock ran on the platform of “Education and Jobs”. Well, who isn’t for education and jobs? It would have been nice to hear more details about it, but in today’s world we don’t seem, as a society, to have time for concepts that can’t be expressed in 140 characters or less.