Like Americans nationwide, many Western North Carolinians awoke to a different political landscape Nov. 8. As Democrats took control of both houses of Congress, Republicans in WNC lost most of their key battles.
Midterm elections are often marked by low voter turnout, but in Buncombe County, at least, Nov. 7, 2006, will be remembered as a day when dreary rains did little to dampen political passions. According to the local Board of Elections, nearly 49 percent of Buncombe’s registered voters made it to the polls that day — a far larger percentage than in North Carolina as a whole, which saw a meager 31 percent participation rate.
For the most part, Buncombe’s sizable turnout benefited Democratic candidates, who prevailed in almost all the local races, including the high-profile congressional contest. Buncombe voters also unseated the county’s Republican sheriff and helped send all local Democratic incumbents back to the state Legislature (though Charles Thomas narrowly retained for his party the N.C. House seat being vacated by retiring fellow Republican Wilma Sherill).
Why did so many liberal-leaning locals make it to the polls? It was probably a combination of concerns that drove them, from discontent with the Bush administration and the war in Iraq to hopes for a shift in environmental, health-care and other policies. An intense get-out-the-vote effort by the activist group MoveOn may have played a part as well. According to staffers at the local office, they made more than 90,000 phone calls urging people to vote out 16-year incumbent Rep. Charles Taylor in the 11th Congressional District.
Although the vote tallies won’t become official until Nov. 17, the results are in. But what do they tell us? In the following pages, Mountain Xpress analyzes the outcomes of some of the region’s most heated races. For complete Buncombe County results, visit www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Election/.