No. 3: In change election, voters stay with status quo


Camden County voters cast their ballots for the general election at the South Mills precinct in South Mills, Tuesday, Nov. 8.


From staff reports

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Editor’s note: Our lookback at the top stories of 2016 continues. 

The historic “change” election in November 2016 brought the nation a new president and North Carolina a new governor, but in local elections, voters mostly went with the status quo.

In the 1st House and 1st Senate districts, both Republican incumbents —state Rep. Bob Steinburg of Chowan and state Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort — easily defeated their Democratic challengers, winning 59-plus percent of the vote in their respective races.

Steinburg’s and Cook’s Democratic challengers, Sam Davis of Pasquotank and Brownie Futrell of Beaufort, tried to make campaign issues of Republicans’ spending on education and support for House Bill 2, the controversial “bathroom bill.” While support for HB2 had some bearing on the governor’s race — incumbent Pat McCrory lost to Democratic challenger Roy Cooper by a little more than 10,000 votes — it appeared to play little to no role in the region’s two legislative races.

Longtime GOP Congressman Walter B. Jones, who thanks to a redrawn district map again represented all parts of five area counties, also easily won re-election to a 12th term in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. Jones defeated Democratic challenger Ernest Reeves with 67 percent of the vote.

Voters in Pasquotank also supported the incumbent in the county’s only contested commissioner race. Democrat Jeff Dixon won a fourth term, defeating unaffiliated challenger Sean Lavin with 60-plus percent of the vote.

Pasquotank voters also appeared to go with the status quo on sales taxes, rejecting by a 64-36 percent margin a referendum on raising the local sales taxes by a quarter-cent. County commissioners had pledged to use revenue from the tax increase, if it had passed, on public education. However, voters responded the same way they did in 2012 when a similar quarter-cent sales tax referendum was on the primary election ballot.

The only incumbent to lose in Pasquotank was Board of Education member Harvey Beasley, who was defeated for his Inside City seat by first-time candidate Shelia Williams. Williams finished with 61 percent of the vote to Beasley’s 38 percent.

In Currituck, voters went with incumbent Republican Register of Deeds Denise Hall over her unaffiliated challenger, Christine Beaumont, returning Hall to office for another four years with 71 percent of the vote. The Hall-Beaumont race was the only contested race on the November ballot in Currituck, as four Republican county commissioner candidates ran unopposed in the general election.

Because of Republicans’ dominance in Currituck elections — no Democrat other than Sheriff Susan Johnson has won a countywide race in 10 years — 2016 marked the first election in recent memory where Currituck Democrats in fact failed to field a candidate for county office in either a party primary or the general election.

Currituck Republicans, meanwhile, had two contested commissioner primaries in March. Bob White defeated incumbent Commissioner Vance Aydlett for the Fruitville Township seat and first-time candidate Mary Etheridge defeated Owen Etheridge, a former commissioner, for an at-large seat.

Currituck voters did oust one incumbent in the November election. Challenger Will Crodick defeated Board of Education member Darnell Gaddis, garnering nearly 70 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan contest.

Similarly in Camden County, most of the decision-making at the ballot box happened during the GOP primary in March. Incumbent GOP Commissioner Michael McLean was defeated by Randy Krainiak, a former commissioner, for the Courthouse District seat in the primary. First-time candidate Ross Munro also defeated Mike Andrews, a former commissioner, in the GOP primary for an at-large seat. Munro went on to defeat Democrat Sam Shaw III in the November election with better than 61 percent of the vote. Munro’s election gave the GOP all five seats on the commission board.

In Camden’s only other contested race on the November ballot, Kevin Heath was elected and incumbent Christian Overton was re-elected to the county Board of Education. The pair won at-large seats over Beth Strecker and Tiffany Bounds Riggs in the nonpartisan contest.

One local board of county commissioners did see a shift in its partisan makeup in the November election. Perquimans Democrats Joseph Hoffler and Charles Woodard won two of the three open seats on the commission board; Republican incumbent Kyle Jones, the top vote-getter, won the third. The election of Hoffler and Woodard gave Democrats a 4-2 majority on the Perquimans board. Previously, the partisan split on the board was 3-3.

There was potential for a shift in the partisan makeup of the Chowan Board of Commissioners as well. There, Democrat Emmett Winborne lost his primary race for re-election to challenger James White. White then lost the November election to Republican Ron Cummings.

The GOP wasn’t able to capitalize on Cummings’ victory, however, because fellow Republican Brian Ferraraccio was defeated by Democrat Donald Faircloth for the seat formerly held by Republican Keith Nixon.

In the only other contested commissioner race on the ballot, Republican Patti F. Kersey defeated Democrat Derrick Wadsworth, holding on to the seat formerly held by Republican Alex Kehayes. Faircloth’s victory allowed Democrats to keep their 4-3 edge on the Chowan board.

While Republicans failed to gain seats on the commission boards in Perquimans and Chowan, their party’s candidates for president, governor and U.S. Senate won in all area counties except Pasquotank, where the Democrat seeking those offices was the top vote-getter.