Election 2012: New faces, contested races

Image 1. Grand Old Party: Republicans celebrated their gains on the Board of Commissioners on election night at Magnolia’s Raw Bar & Grill. The unofficial results showed Republican Mike Fryar (left) with a narrow lead over the other District 2 candidates, although the race appears to be headed toward a recount. Republican Joe Belcher (right) won a seat on the board in District 3. photo by Max Cooper
Image 2. Down, but not out: After conceding the 10th Congressional District race to incumbent Republican Patrick McHenry, Democrat Patsy Keever told supporters at Pack’s Tavern that their party needs to continue standing up for children and public education. photo by Max Cooper
Image 3. Conservative comeback: Republican Mark Meadows defeated Democrat Hayden Rogers in the 11th Congressional District after three-term incumbent Democrat Heath Shuler opted not to seek re-election. Meadows celebrated the win at the Hilton in Biltmore Park. photo by Bill Rhodes
Image 4. Navigating the water: At Pack’s Tavern, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy (left), Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt (middle left) and others monitored referendum results that showed Ashevilleans rejecting the idea of selling or leasing the water system. photo by Max Cooper
Image 5. Turning out the vote: About 69 percent of Buncombe County's registered voters turned out this year, slightly down from 71 percent in 2008. photo by Bill Rhodes

Although President Barack Obama carried Buncombe County en route to winning re-election, overall it was a night of historic gains for local Republicans. They won both local congressional seats and two of the three local Statehouse seats and might well gain a voting majority on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners once the hotly contested District 2 race is finally decided. Here's a look at some of the Nov. 6 results and candidate comments. All results reported here, taken from the county and state boards of elections, are unofficial until they’re certified on Nov. 16. A recount could further delay final results.

10th Congressional District

Incumbent Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry defeated Democratic challenger Patsy Keever to keep his seat in the 10th District, which was redrawn last year to include most of Asheville. Spanning seven counties, the district stretches all the way to Gaston County: McHenry carried all of them except Buncombe, Keever's home territory. All told, he received 57 percent of the 332,489 votes cast.

“I am humbled by your support and honored to be re-elected to another term as your representative in Washington,” McHenry said in his Gaston County victory speech. "I want to take a quick moment to say how wonderful it has been to campaign in this new district and to make so many new friends in Buncombe and Polk counties."

Keever, meanwhile, thanked family, staff and volunteers gathered at Pack's Tavern in downtown Asheville. "We will continue to work and continue to be Democrats,” she told a room crowded with supporters. “We will continue to care about people, particularly children. Those things that we worked for, we will continue to work for.”

11th Congressional District

The political goal of moving Asheville’s predominantly Democratic voters to the 10th Congressional District last year was widely believed to be making the 11th more Republican-friendly. And after three-term Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler opted not to seek re-election, Republican Mark Meadows defeated Shuler's former chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, with 57 percent of the vote.

On election night, the Cashiers real estate developer celebrated the victory at the Hilton in Biltmore Park. The next day, Meadows penned a letter to supporters, saying he’s "humbled and honored by the confidence you have placed in me. … My mission is to fight to free small businesses from excessive government and secure the freedoms our Western North Carolina families hold dear."

Rogers spent the night huddled with supporters in Murphy. "Although this race was an uphill battle before it even started, I chose to run because I believed it was the right thing to do for the people of Western North Carolina, our country and our democratic process," he said in a statement released by his campaign. "I have been truly humbled by the dedication, encouragement and generosity that so many across Western North Carolina have shown me throughout this journey. Thank you."

Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 1

Encompassing most of the city of Asheville, District 1 proved to be a Democratic stronghold, with incumbent Holly Jones collecting 45 percent of the vote. Under the new election system, the top vote-getter in each district earns a four-year term; the second-place finisher gets two years. Fellow Democrat Brownie Newman, like Jones a former Asheville City Council member, claimed the second spot with 39 percent of the vote.

As he mingled with supporters at Pack's Tavern, Newman said his focus will be on "strong public schools and supporting our teachers, supporting living-wage jobs,” adding, “I personally want to make … Buncombe County a leader for clean energy and energy independence.”

Republican Don Guge, his party's only candidate in the district, fell far behind with 15 percent of the vote.

Board of Commissioners District 2

With all 32 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show an extremely narrow lead for Republicans Mike Fryar (25.15 percent with 19,904 votes) and Christina Kelley G. Merrill (25.03 percent; 19,806 votes) over Democrats Ellen Frost (24.92 percent; 19,719 votes) and incumbent Carol Peterson (24.90 percent; 19,701 votes). But it could be weeks before the final results are known — and which party controls the board hangs in the balance.

The unofficial results don’t include about 1,052 provisional ballots, Election Services Director Trena Parker explains. Warren Wilson College students were forced to fill out 154 of them during early voting, she notes, after her department determined that the registration address for 1,000 of the school’s residents was no longer valid. (Warren Wilson College is now split between Districts 1 and 2; the dividing line, Warren Wilson Road, cuts through the middle of campus. Parker says she's not sure how many of those provisional ballots were filled out by District 2 residents.) Other Warren Wilson residents were given the wrong ballot, creating further uncertainty.

In addition, continues Parker, at least 500 absentee ballots have yet to be counted.

Newsweek called Warren Wilson the "most liberal college in the nation," and Frost hopes those votes bump her up to a second-place finish. Neither Frost nor Peterson has conceded the race, pending the Nov. 16 certified results. "Let's just wait and see," says Frost. If any candidate’s margin of victory turns out to be 1 percent or less, the opposition can request a recount that could take two weeks, notes Parker.

Meanwhile, Fryar spent election night celebrating his tentative first-place finish at Magnolia’s Raw Bar & Grill in downtown Asheville. "It feels really good,” he said, adding, “I think I've worked really hard to get there.”

With two Democrats winning in District 1 and two Republicans claiming District 3, the final results in District 2, which encompasses much of eastern Buncombe County including Fairview, Black Mountain and Weaverville, will determine which party has a majority on the board.

Board of Commissioners District 3

This district covers the most conservative part of the county, including Arden, Enka and Leicester, and voters favored Republicans Joe Belcher (27 percent) and David King (26 percent). Democrat Michelle Pace Wood garnered 23 percent and Terry Van Duyn 22 percent.

Both victors celebrated successful first bids for public office at Magnolia’s. Belcher, a regional manager for Clayton Homes, called the board’s potential Republican majority (for the first time in more than two decades) “a big win for the county, and I think it's a conservative mandate for the county. We're going to challenge some of the spending; we're going to work together to make sure every area in the county is represented.”

King, a farrier, says he was "absolutely humbled" by the results, adding, "I'm just excited about being part of it and hopefully delivering good government.”

Board of Commissioners chair

Incumbent Democrat David Gantt defeated challenger JB Howard 61 percent to 38 percent.

N.C. House 114th District

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Susan Fisher ran unopposed.

N.C. House 115th District

Republican Nathan Ramsey (former chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners) defeated Democratic challenger Susan Wilson, 54 percent to 45 percent.

N.C. House 116th District

Incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt defeated Democratic challenger Jane Whilden 56 percent to 43 percent. She beat Moffitt in 2008 and he defeated her in 2010. During the campaign, Whilden declared that this race would be the "tie-breaker" in their series of battles.

N.C. Senate District 48

Incumbent Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca ran unopposed.

N.C. Senate District 49

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Martin Nesbitt easily fended off a challenge by Republican RL Clark, 61 percent to 38 percent.

Asheville water system referendum

Ashevilleans roundly rejected the idea of selling or leasing the city’s water system, 85 percent (34,695 votes) to 14 percent (5,864 votes).

Buncombe County Register of Deeds

Incumbent Democrat Drew Reisinger defeated Republican Pat Cothran 56 percent to 43 percent.

Buncombe County School Board

In the at-large race, the unofficial results show Paul (Dusty) Pless Jr. holding a slim lead over Jerry Green, 29,463 votes to 28,743. In the North Buncombe District race, Ann B. Franklin defeated Brian Freelan 45,155 votes to 24,659. In the Owen District, Chip Craig topped Dan Hale, 37,428 votes to 27,170. And in the Roberson District, Amy Churchill won with 36,111 votes over Steven Weir Sizemore’s 33,225.

For more election news, go to mountainx.com/election.

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