Lots of votes, little change

As election day dawned in Western North Carolina, a double rainbow graced the sky over West Asheville’s 16th Precinct. And for the folks waiting in line to vote, it was a fitting symbol: The stormy campaign season was almost over; the end was near.

After months of hype, a record number of voters turned out to exercise their rights. All told, 104,411 people — nearly 68 percent of eligible voters — cast ballots, according to the Buncombe County Board of Elections. That’s up from the 88,714 (61 percent) who voted in the last presidential election four years ago. For the most part, though, those extra ballots didn’t seem to change the outcome, as incumbents prevailed in the majority of contests.

In the national races, WNC voters leaned more toward elephant than donkey, with President George W. Bush edging out Sen. John Kerry, and Republican Richard Burr defeating Democrat Erskine Bowles for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by vice presidential candidate John Edwards. And Republican incumbent Charles Taylor bested Democratic challenger Patsy Keever by a margin of 27,441 votes to retain the 11th Congressional District seat. Taylor garnered 55 percent of the total vote — about the same percentage he claimed in defeating Sam Neill in 2002, even though 88,298 more votes were cast in this year’s race.

At the state level, however, voters chose a Democrat, re-electing Gov. Mike Easley. All three amendments to the state constitution also passed muster. For specific vote totals for races profiled by Xpress‘ election coverage, see below.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, meanwhile, won’t see any change in its political makeup: The only new face at the table will be that of Democrat Carol Weir Peterson, who racked up 47,018 votes to win the seat vacated by Keever. The other members of the Board of Commissioners haven’t changed: Democrats David Gantt, Bill Stanley and David Young will be back for four more years. And Republican Nathan Ramsey remains at the helm, having fended off a challenge by former Asheville City Council member (and Vice Mayor) Ed Hay for the chairmanship.

Incumbents also got the nod in the local races for the state legislature. Republican Reps. Wilma Sherrill and Tom Apodaca and Democratic Reps. Bruce Goforth and Susan Fisher all won. And the race between state Sen. Martin Nesbitt and his Republican challenger, R.L. Clark, wasn’t even close. To keep things consistent, voters also favored all four incumbents for the Buncombe County Board of Education.

Long lines were the order of the day at many polling stations, and both Republican and Democratic activists stood sentinel on the periphery in a last-ditch effort to woo undecided voters. But though most citizens kept a poker face and rebuffed those attempts, some were more than happy to show their hand.

West Asheville voter Barry Davis, festooned with Bush buttons, told Xpress that he’d cast his ballot for the incumbent because, “We need to take Asheville back from the Demo-queers. Bush is a strong leader, and we’re involved in a holy war — we need to do this for our children.”

Stephen Houpis, who punched the button for Kerry, was equally passionate: “I’m tired of being lied to. I want equal justice for all Americans, and not just a privileged few.”

Numbers, please

Here are the unofficial results of the state and local races profiled in Xpress‘ election coverage, according to the Buncombe County Board of Elections and the State Board of Elections Web site. The official results will be available later this month. Winners are in bold.

• 11th Congressional District — Charles Taylor, 157,369; Patsy Keever, 129,928.

• Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman — Nathan Ramsey, 51,374; Ed Hay, 45,781.

• Buncombe County Board of Commissioners — David Gantt, 55,698; David Young, 53,372; Bill Stanley, 52,414; Carol Weir Peterson, 49,462; Mike Morgan, 44,967; Mark Crawford, 41,841; Mike Harrison, 40,164; Bill Reynolds, 38,537.

• Buncombe County Board of Education — Bob Embler, 44,486; Wendell Begley, 43,916; Dianne Shepherd, 32,343; Paul “Dusty” Pless, 30,774; Grant Millin, 18,462; David Arpin, 14,541.

• Register of Deeds — Otto DeBruhl, 58,070; Elizabeth Daniels, 37,714.

• State Senate District 48 — Tom Apodaca, 47,001; Matthew C. Rogers, 28,757.

• State Senate District 49 — Martin L. Nesbitt, 42,936; R.L. Clark, 27,067.

• House District 114 — Susan Fisher, 18,795; Bill Porter, 11,539.

• House District 115 — Bruce Goforth, 20,592; Barbara Boyd, 12,853; Robert Parker, 986.

• House District 116 — Wilma Sherill, 19,672; Doug Jones, 11,903.

• Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor — Michelle Price, 29,692; Alan Ditmore,13,666; Harold “Cicada” Brokaw, 13,464.

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