Tuesday evening, as votes trickled in for counting, President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney were neck and neck until around 11:00 p.m. That’s when Obama broke away. Within minutes, Obama’s victory was declared. Prior to final canvasses, Obama had 58,339,999 popular votes to Romney’s 56,222,628; Obama picked up 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. In Buncombe County, with 126,834 votes cast, 70,066, or 55.24 percent preferred Obama.
The 2012 presidential election was, by almost all accounts, going to be “historical.” The national debt had exceeded $16.2 trillion. It had grown $3.86 billion per day since September 28, 2007. Less of a concern was the additional $8.6 billion owed to Social Security recipients, $38.6 trillion owed for Medicare, $5.8 trillion owed in federal pensions, and another $7.1 trillion owed in state and local benefits.
To partially address the federal government’s tradition of spending more than it collects, Congress had enacted several measures to kick in on January 1, 2013. In short, these measures would raise taxes on the average American family by $3446. Payback time for the obscene debt is scary not only to Americans who pay attention. Two days before the election, G20 leaders at a meeting in Mexico urged the US to ease in the changes, as the “fiscal cliff” was the greatest threat to global economies.
As nations in the eurozone are “going Greece,” the US economy had its own rumblings as the election proceeded Tuesday. According to Reuters, S&P 500 futures fell 6.7 points; the Dow, 50; and Nasdaq, 8.75 points. As an indication of a loss in faith in the US dollar, the price of gold rose $40/oz November 6.
“The national debt was never an issue until the fighting broke out in the Middle East,” remarked one West Asheville voter. Several agreed that the dollars wasted on war would be better spent at home on welfare programs. This was shocking, considering the hatred people with similar views recently harbored for an economy purportedly fueled largely by the military-industrial complex.
The disconnect was prevalent. “One day, we’ll realize money is just imaginary, and then it will all go away,” offered one woman from Oregon. Jobs were the big issue, and government was considered the best source of jobs – but nobody seemed to care if government did not pay contractors or its own employees for services rendered. The evil banks should give lump sums to government and never pay it back to all the personal savings accounts that make borrowing possible. If the fiscally-unengaged voters had their way, corporations would never amass enough capital to allow lending.
Corporations were “fascist,” a word that kept recurring outside a west Asheville precinct; and Romney definitely was “not the guy” to lead the nation’s economic recovery. The story repeated about Romney was that he was a vulture capitalist who flipped corporations for personal profit, often sending them into bankruptcy and landing untold numbers on the unemployment rolls. Nobody wanted to talk about the Olympics, but one of Romney’s other successful turnarounds, Staples, stayed in business by putting other, less efficient stores out of business. After all, economies do not thrive on efficiencies, they thrive on job creation – and Obama was a community organizer.
Other Federal Races –
In the race for the 10th District Congressional seat, Patrick McHenry (R) collected 189,667 votes (57 percent) over Patsy Keever’s (D) 142,882 (43 percent). Recent Republican redistricting extended the now five-term incumbent’s district into left-leaning portions of Buncombe County, where Keever collected 66.08 percent of the 69,980 votes cast.
Indicative of the long arm of gerrymandering, McHenry delivered his acceptance speech in his home town of Gastonia. After thanking his supporters across seven counties, and thanking his opponent for running a clean race, McHenry asked his constituents to continue the good fight. “Together, we can dig out from the avalanche of big government that has buried our country in debt and despair,” he said.
In the 11th District, Mark Meadows (R) defeated incumbent Heath Shuler’s former chief of staff Hayden Rogers (D). A preliminary tally gave Meadows 57 percent of 318,722 votes cast. Celebrating at the Biltmore Park Hilton, Meadows delivered his victory speech around 9:00 p.m. He thanked his family and his supporters; especially, Jeff Miller who had “started the work” by running for the office last cycle, and the Reverend Billy Graham.
“I had friends who had lost their jobs, friends who had lost their homes, and many of them had lost their hope,” remarked Meadows. Recurring themes in his speech were the voice of the people, liberty, and freedom. Speaking of the ordeals of the campaign, he added, “I’ve had 342 pounds of barbeque . . . .”
Nationwide, following the election, Republicans hold 231 of 436 Congressional seats, but only 45 of 100 Senate seats. Democrats failed to pick up the 25 seats needed to regain control of the House of Representatives. In 2010, in a clearer mandate, Republicans gained control of Congress by netting 63 new seats. Statewide, North Carolinians elected nine Republicans and three Democrats to Congress.
State-Level Elections –
The mass media’s earliest declared victor Tuesday was Pat McCrory (R). National outlets announced an early victory for the former Charlotte mayor. The unofficial tally gave McCrory 55 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Beverly Perdue’s hand-picked successor, Walter Dalton. Dan Forest (R) was declared the winner in the closer race for lieutenant governor, defeating Linda Coleman with 50.13 percent of the vote. Depending on the results of the final canvass, this race may be subject to a recount.
Barbara Howe collected over 2 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial race. This is significant to Libertarians in that if no major candidate passed the 2 percent threshold, the party would be decertified, forcing activists to petition for signatures instead of devoting time and energy toward challenging public policy.
The following were victorious in council of state races: Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D), Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin(D), Treasurer Janet Cowell (D), Auditor Beth Wood (D), Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson (D), Secretary of Labor Cherie Berry (R), and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler (R).
In the competition for state house, Nathan Ramsey (R) and Tim Moffitt (R) won their respective races, and Susan Fisher (D) slid in unopposed. RL Clark was popular among out-county voters, but incumbent Martin Nesbitt garnered almost twice as many votes from the urbanized area of Senate District 49. In District 48, Apodaca ran unopposed.
Justice Paul Newby , Chris Dillon, Linda McGee, and Wanda Bryant won the major judicial races. The first two had “Republican endorsements” in the nonpartisan race.
Buncombe County Returns –
In the race for chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, incumbent David Gantt (D) ran away with 61.60 percent of 122,901 votes cast, defeating challenger JB Howard (R). Gantt ran on a platform celebrating the strategic management of Wanda Greene, Mandy Stone, and Jon Creighton. Supporters applauded Gantt’s ability to get different local legislative bodies communicating with each other. Howard told apologists he was glad he ran, and happy for those who won.
The county held its first election with the new commissioner districts. As a result of controversial legislation spearheaded by Moffitt, Buncombe was divided into three districts, with the number of seats at the dais increased from five to seven. The move was viewed as a means to give out-county Republicans a voice on a board dominated by the left-leaning favorites of Asheville residents. Each district was to have two seats, and as part of the implementation of the new structure, the second highest vote-getter would only get half a term.
In a predictable three-way race in centrally-located District 1, the lone Republican, Don Guge, lost to Holly Jones and Brownie Newman. The two, who also served together on Asheville City Council, campaigned together and benefited from the second choices of a number of Republicans who did not want to vote single-shot. In her last term as a commissioner, Jones tried to differentiate herself as somebody who would ask questions. Newman, while favoring progressive policies, tended to be a voice of fiscal reason among other progressives on council. Jones collected 45.16 percent of the vote; Newman, 39.58 percent.
In District 2, which covers the eastern portion of the county, the race was very tight all night, with all four candidates hovering around the 25 percent mark. The uncanvassed tallies placed the Republicans slightly on top. Mike Fryar had 25.15 percent of the vote, and Christina Kelly G. Merrill had 25.03 percent. Challenger Ellen Frost (D) had 24.92 percent of the vote, and incumbent Carol Weir Peterson came in last with 24.92 percent. A total of 79,130 votes were cast, and since margins were smaller than 395 votes (0.5 percent), recounts may be requested.
Republicans also won in District 3. The highest vote-getter was Joe Belcher (27.56 percent). David King, with 26.38 percent of the vote, will get a two-year term. The two defeated Terry Van Duyn and Michelle Pace Wood. 70,073 votes were cast in this race.
At a celebration of Buncombe County Republicans at Magnolia’s, where Romney Specials were the order of the night, King stood in a doorway eating a cookie. “Right now, I’m walking around in a daze,” he said of the Republican sweep. Like the other celebrating victors, he assured he had no agenda other than representing the people he served.
Fryar enjoyed a cigarette outside. “When the people say they want or don’t want something, I’ll listen. Remember zoning?” He said all his challenges to the board paid off. He had been behind the lowering of the commissioners’ highest-in-the-state compensation, and often publicly questioned promotions and compensation in county departments. Fryar paid high compliments to the members of county management who supported him whenever he asked for supporting data, and said he had no intention of using the new majority to clean house.
As Belcher left Magnolia’s, he remarked simply, “To God be the glory.” Merrill, whose house burned down a week ago, thought her election was historic, in that she was the first Republican woman to be elected to the board in thirty or forty years.
Incumbent Drew Reisinger (D) ran away with the contest for register of deeds with 56.76 percent of the vote. He defeated Pat Cothran (R), who ran a campaign highlighting her background in real estate and finance as opposed to Resinger’s background in campaign support.
With the exception of Amy Churchill (R), the Clean Slate candidates washed out in the Buncombe County School Board elections. The Clean Slate candidates promised to follow the footsteps of incumbent Lisa Baldwin (R), rattling the cage of the superintendent by challenging assumptions and demanding data. The other three seats were won by Dusty Pless, Ann B. Franklin, and Chip Craig. This race also was nonpartisan, but the political persuasions of the players were loudly broadcast.
The most quizzical item on the ballot, of course, was the referendum. The city of Asheville asked residents if it should sell its water treatment system. The water battle resurfaced recently when Moffitt proposed legislation to turn the system over to the Metropolitan Sewerage District. The bill was watered-down to a study bill, but that left both the city and the MSD hiring consultants and diverting staff to the work of expensive paper chases.
The question befuddled anybody who thought about it. The referendum was nonbinding, so the city could do whatever it wanted, regardless of the vox pop. Some questioned whether by saying the city couldn’t sell the system they’d be making the city fork it over to the MSD without compensation. City Attorney Bob Oast assured other forms of compensation would be permitted. Regardless, 85.54 percent of 40,559 voters filled in the “No” oval.