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Republicans sweep election for county commissioners

by ERIN WILTGEN Thomasville Times
November 2010

Davidson County certainly bled red Tuesday night as local election results rolled in favoring the Grand Old Party.

Though not a surprising turn of events that the four Republican candidates for County Commissioner won the four open spots, the margin of victory across the board of Republicans over Democrats was staggering.

It kind of went like all the posters said it was going to, didn’t it?” said incumbent Republican Sam Watford. “I was very pleased. I think the people have definitely spoken.”

Incumbent Billy Joe Kepley sat top of the pack with 18.04 percent of the votes. Newcomer Todd Yates came in second with 17.94 percent, and incumbents Don Truell and Watford took the last two open spots with 17.59 percent and 17.62 percent, respectively.

“I was pleasantly surprised that I won reelection,” Kepley said. “I was impressed very much by the local office-seekers that the spirit of their campaign was clean, their focus was on the issues. We all talked and became friends at the forums.”

The Democratic candidate who garnered the most votes was Jason Hedrick with 9.48 percent, about 13,000 votes away from the fourth spot. Other Democratic candidates were Ronald Swicegood, Jeff Switzer and Kevin Williams.

“I got to know those guys that we were running against, and any one of them would have done a good job,” Truell said. “I think the voters here had a good selection to choose from, and I’m just fortunate that I was one of them.”

Hedrick had been a left-wing party hopeful given his strong name recognition, but Watford says local Democrats paid the price for the national pushback against the White House party.

I think people were just voting Republican, that’s obvious,” Watford said. “The straight ticket vote had to be high. I benefited from the state party vote.

And though a swap in political parties had been an expectation for a while, the extent of the backlash still came as a surprise to some.

“Politics is more unpredictable than the weather,” Kepley said. “We pretty much made a clean sweep of Davidson County except for the Mel Watt victory, and I think we’ve got some good people that will be in government for the next couple of years. We’ve also got some good people who were defeated.”

Yates, Board of Commissioners new Republican addition, will replace current Chair and sole Democrat Max Walser, who chose not to run for reelection. But given such a small change and the board’s dynamics to begin with, incumbents expect a smooth transition. Yates was unavailable for comment.

“I don’t think parties in politics ever surfaced in any of our issues or deliberations,” Kepley said. “I always described myself as a non-partisan Republican, and I think the rest of the commissioners are pretty much the same. We never talked about politics. It was just the issues.”

Watford says Yates will become an asset to the board, and the incumbent already seems impressed with the new member’s work ethic.

I look forward to working with Todd Yates,” Watford said. “He campaigned hard, and that helped us, too.”

With little anticipated change, next session will most likely remain business as usual.

“I’m just happy to have another four years, and we’ll see what happens,” Kepley said. “We’re still building schools, and we’re still looking for jobs, and we’re still service-oriented and low-tax oriented.”

Watford says the board will have to sit tight and wait for news from the state.

We’ll have to wait to see how the state budget affects us next year,” he said. “Whatever the state budget does impacts us, and we’ll have to try to be conservative between now and then. With this election, the attitude of the people is going to change and the economy is going to get better here in Davidson County.

While Kepley says he looks forward to continuing his work bringing wind energy and a reservoir to the county, Truell says he wants to plug along with bringing fixed routes to Thomasville and Lexington.

“What made me happy was the fact that a lot of the projects and programs that we’ve got going on over there I get to continue on those,” Truell said. “To me, it makes me feel good knowing that the voters have confidence in me. I want to make sure I don’t let any of them down.”

Staff Writer Erin Wiltgen can be reached at 888-3576 or at newsdesk@tvilletimes.com.

Pullout – results

County Commissioner —

Billy Joe Kepley, Republican: 18.04 percent

Todd Yates, Republican: 17.94 percent

Sam Watford, Republican: 17.62 percent

Don Truell, Republican: 17.59 percent

Jason Hedrick, Democrat: 9.48 percent

Ronald Swicegood, Democrat: 6.75 percent

Jeff Switzer, Democrat: 6.48 percent

Kevin Williams, Democrat: 6.11 percent

Register of Deeds —

David Rickard, Republican: 70.93 percent

Gary Bowers, Democrat: 29.07 percent

Pullout – voter turnout

Voter turnout not only doubled the numbers for May’s Primary Election but surpassed most political activists expectations for a non-presidential year.

Of the 101,985 registered voters in Davidson County, 41,719 cast ballots, putting voter turnout at 40.91 percent despite most estimates ranging around 30 percent.

In the primaries, Davidson County fielded a 20.51 percent voter turnout.

“It was heavier than I expected,” said Ruth Huneycutt of the Davidson County Board of Elections. “I thought voter turnout for the early voting was good, but Tuesday was strong.”

Statewide, voter turnout was 43.28 percent.

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