Sheriff McDonald advances while Register of Deeds runoff looms
By Pete Zamplas- Top vote-getter Bill Lapsley unseated Larry Young in the Republican primary Tuesday, to further strengthen potential voting power of relatively more moderate Henderson County commissioners.
Commissioner Mike Edney clearly won reelection. Vice-chairman Tommy Thompson unofficially edged Tim Griffin by 161 votes, in the closest of three commissioner races. Though running in separate districts, they were elected county-wide.
Sheriff Charlie McDonald won half of ballots in a three-person race, with 5,992 votes. He beat state trooper Michael Brown (31.5 percent) and Fletcher Police Chief Erik Summey (18%). McDonald, appointed two years ago, seeks his first full term. He faces Democrat Martin Katz in the general election, on Nov. 4.
Election results should be finalized and certified by late Friday, after “canvassing” to double-check each ballot and its validity, according to Elections Director Beverly Cunningham. Additions to preliminary totals include election-day curbside ballots, witnessed absentee ballots such as mailed by servicemen overseas, and scrutinized “provisional” ballots by recent movers. The base turnout of 15,094 was 19.5 percent — strong for an off-year primary.
Pending final results, a run-off on June 24 looms for the top two finishers in the Register of Deeds contest, with a remote possibility in the Thompson-Griffin contest as well. Griffin told The Tribune, “I’m optimistic. But that’s a lot of votes to make up” in canvassing. “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.”
In the deeds race, tax collector Lee King ended Tuesday night slightly ahead of paralegal Evona Johnson Kilpatrick in the bid to succeed retiring Nedra Moles. But King was just below the 40 percent needed to avoid a run-off. He had 39.84 percent of the vote (with 4,406), to Kilpatrick’s 38.86 percent (4,298) and 21.29 percent (2,355) for C. Shannon Baldwin who is a former commissioner and school board member.
Two votes separated the frontrunners at 3,255-3,253. Then King re-widened his margin, to 96 at 4,093-3,997 with 32 precincts in and 108 with all 35 precincts’ main ballots counted.
Commissioner and register of deed victors are apparently de-facto already elected. They have no opposition Nov. 4, unless via a rare candidate petition drive.
Young’s term extends into early December. Until then, he can remain a force in budgeting and other matters. Commissioners meet May 12 at 5:30 p.m., then hold an all-day budget session May 22.
Some see more voting consensus, once Lapsley fills Young’s seat. Young often sided with Grady Hawkins such as for more frugal sides on some issues, on a mostly conservative board. Victorious commissioners played down the notion of a greater working majority, with moderate Chairman Charlie Messer. They noted each of their views can vary, issue by issue.
“Every person is an individual. We all represent our constituencies,” Edney told The Tribune. “Generally, I think you’ll see more consensus. It’s hard to say, this far out” from December.
Lapsley vowed “it certainly will be different than the current situation. Larry and I don’t see things the same,” such as in aiding Flat Rock Playhouse — which Young opposed. Lapsley said of voters, “my sense is they wanted a change” in District 3.
Lapsley, 65, is a civil engineer, active on many civic boards. He brings technical and financial expertise on facility projects, and civic experience in attracting jobs. This was his first run for public office.
Edney, 53, sees reelection of two of three incumbents as a thumbs up for the board’s direction — incentives bringing in industry and jobs, improving local health care and emergency services, and funding most critical projects while keeping the tax bite stable. The District 1 commissioner said “I feel vindicated, for what we’ve done in the last four years. The voters are in tune with this. We’ll continue to do well.”
The three commissioner winners pledge a blend of prudent budgeting with pressing ahead with priority projects, such as expanding Hendersonville High School and developing a medical education facility near county-owned Pardee Hospital. They also speak of higher teacher local supplemental pay.
In winning by nearly 14 percent of the vote, Edney said “I’m extremely happy” for that margin and to avoid a run-off. He totaled 5,695 votes, which is 50.72 percent. Construction contractor Andrew Riddle, a recent county GOP chairman, had 4,140 (37%), and G.E. retiree Hogan Corn 1,393 (12.4%).
Lapsley tallied about 57 percent all night, in his race. His 6,323 votes were the most of any GOP candidate in the county primary. Young, at 4,768, was 1,555 votes back. “I’m very pleased” with winning so decisively, Lapsley said. “Larry had served the county well, for 12 years,” he added. “He should be congratulated for that.”
Young ran a spirited, spicy campaign. He said of the margin “I didn’t think it’d be hardly that bad.” He said, “I congratulate Bill Lapsley. I have no regrets on how I ran my campaign, or what I’ve done as a county commissioner.” Young said “I’m proud of my accomplishments,” such as in affording greater student capacity in latest new schools via energy-saving designs he advocated.
The District 4 race between Thompson and Griffin was close from early voting (one-stop and absentee) results to final precinct counts, and now awaits canvassing. Thompson had 77 more early votes (2,357 to 2,281). His lead was 88 at 4,215-4,127, with about half of precinct results in before 9 p.m. according to Cunningham and as aired over WHKP 1450 AM. The lead stood at 63 at 5,283-5,220, with three precincts to go. The final tally was 5,766-5,605 for a pre-canvassing margin of 161 votes or 1.42 percent (50.71-49.29).
Election results took two and a half hours, delayed by an apparent statewide computerized overload. Local election boards tabulated and reported ballots, precinct by precinct.
Thompson is used to slower tabulation. He was first elected in 1974, starting a 32-year run as clerk of Superior Court. If his victory Tuesday holds up, he will be 10-0 in elections. As vote tallies gradually accumulated, “I was watching and listening to those returns,” he said. “We (his family) toughed it out, until the ‘show was over.’” He added, “I’m glad it’s finished. We can move on, to doing right things for the county.”
Thompson, who turned 63 two weeks ago, and Griffin live a mere mile away in Dana, across an apple orchard. “Many people knew us both, and said ‘I hate to make a choice,’” Thompson said.
Griffin, 49, said, “Tommy is a fine fellow. I wish him well. We’re still buddies. He fought a fair, very gentlemanly fight. Tommy was professional. We cut up, at these (candidate) forums. We disagreed about (merely) a couple of issues.”
Griffin barely lost his first election, by two percent to Rick Davis for sheriff in 2006. Griffin reasons “this is politics. It isn’t life and death.” He enjoyed the campaign, and supporters’ dedication. “It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “This is outside my realm of (law enforcement) expertise. I studied on the issues. But I was climbing a steep mountain,” challenging a 36-year public servant. He said coming within 161 votes is “not a bad showing, for a ‘rookie’ politician.”
Newly retired and fresh off the busy campaign, Griffin is not idle. He planned for the next morning to “bush-hog (mow) grass and orchards, and spray apple trees.” He works for four fire departments, and volunteers for a fifth (Dana).
In fulfilling a campaign pledge, “I will still push to get this shelter built for homeless teenagers. I’d love to work on some committees, and work with the commissioners to try to make a change.”
Also Tuesday, two-term State Rep. Chuck McGrady neared 62 percent to easily defeat retiree Ronnie Edwards in District 117, which has 25 of the 35 county precincts. On the Nov. 4 ballot, State House challengers are Libertarian Shelby Mood versus McGrady (R-Flat Rock) and Democrat Norm Bosser against State Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Rosman, Dist. 113) who was unopposed Tuesday.
The N.C. General Assembly begins its summer short session next week.