City - County Gov.HendersonvilleNews StoriesPete Zamplas

Pres. Obama reelected, but GOP still controls U.S. House and both state chambers while gaining governorship

By Pete Zamplas –

Democrat President Barack Obama won a narrow reelection over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Tuesday but without the policy mandate he had as a fresh face four years ago, while the GOP scored big closer to home with Pat McCrory as governor and Mark Meadows as the new congressman.

Energetic, popular former Charlotte Mayor McCrory, 56, pledges tax reform and reduction. He becomes merely the sixth Republican governor in North Carolina history, third since 1901 and first in 20 years since two-termer Jim Martin. He defeated Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, by 54.7 to 43.2 percent overall, and 65-32 in Henderson County. Dalton took more liberal Buncombe County, 51-45.7 percent. Libertarian Barbara Howe got 2 percent of votes statewide.

Republican Dan Forest edged Linda Coleman for lieutenant governor, by 50.13-49.87 percent, pending any recount. The Democrat-dominated Council of State’s two GOP commissioners both won — Steve Troxler in Agriculture, and Cherie Berry in Labor. State Supreme Court Justice Paul Martin Newby, recommended by conservative action groups, was reelected over Appeals Judge Sam J. Ervin IV. Ervin’s grandfather was the famed Democrat senator and Watergate investigator.

Meadows, 52, a real estate entrepreneur from Cashiers, is a “Christian conservative businessman.” He succeeds Heath Shuler, who did not run again, by beating Shuler’s top aide Hayden Rogers. Meadows won convincingly, 57.4 to 42.6 percent. He won 64-36 percent in Henderson County, and 51.8-48.2 percent in Buncombe.

Meadows made a splash at the GOP Convention. In many observers’ minds, he was the most articulate and animated of a dozen congressional candidates who spoke Aug. 28. He was the only one to specify abortion, and foreign policy concern of helping defend Israel from Islamic aggression and Iranian nuclear buildup and political blackmail. Meadows told The Tribune he was not nervous for his speech, rather inspired.

Fresh into his triumph, he is eager to fight for conservative causes such as for a tighter budget and versus excessive taxation and business regulation. In his victory speech, he vowed to “get jobs back” and protect liberties.

The GOP won nine of 13 House seats in N.C.. Patrick McHenry earned a fifth term in District 10. His challenger, Patsy Keever, won 66-34 percent in Buncombe County. Liberal bastion Asheville was redistricted from the closely-contested 11th, absorbed into the GOP-safer 10th District.

Democrats widened their slight edge in the U.S. Senate by two seats, to 55. That includes three independents expected to caucus with them; one is newly-elected independent Angus King of Maine. Democrats lost only a Nebraska seat, and gained seats in Indiana, Massachusetts and Maine. But they lack a 60-vote filibuster-proof super majority.

The status quo continues as Republicans still control the U.S. House and — in an even rarer phenomenon — both chambers in Raleigh. The GOP pulled off a rare Tar Heel triple play, by moving McCrory into the governor’s mansion.

Contrast: D.C. with Raleigh

Policy implications arise, with trimmer budgets forecast for the state. But the president is no longer restrained by reelection campaign moderation, on his daring socio-economic quests such as to redistribute income. Expected are more increased spending and pork-filled stimulus to the sagging economy, with higher taxes for not merely the very wealth as touted but most taxpayers to offset some spiraling federal debt.

“The best is yet to come,” Obama said in his victory speech after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. “You voted for action.” He spoke of reforming the tax code, and “certain obligations” of taxpayers.

The gridlock-sparking split in power in Washington may stymie some plans. The impasse between D.C. and more GOP-led Raleigh can safeguard the “Obamacare” federal health mandate that GOP candidates vowed to try to repeal. It requires adults to get health insurance by the end of 2013, or else get fined. Yet N.C. looms ever more as among many states unlikely to opt into a plan to help group individuals not part of big companies into cost-saving, state-sponsored group plans.

Mitt Romney, 65, narrowly won 50.4-48.3 percent in N.C. which is among 11 swing states. He won 63-35 percent in Henderson County. Obama prevailed in Buncombe, 55-43 percent.

The Carolina Panthers nearly boosted Romney, by chance. They won 21-13 in Washington, on Sunday. Since 1940 and except for 2004 and now 2012, every time the Redskins lost their last home game before a presidential election the incumbent’s party lost its Oval Office bid. If the Skins won that game, the commander in chief’s party also prevailed for his office. That “Redskins Rule” held true for 17 times.

But Obama, 51, bucked that supposed curse. He took pivotal Ohio, to go over the 270 electoral vote threshold at 11:13 p.m. No GOP presidential candidate won the White House without winning the Buckeye State. Obama led 303-206 electorally, with Florida not finalized as of 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. Obama got 50 percent of the popular vote, to Romney’s 49 percent.

Ohio and Romney’s birth state of Michigan are among Midwest industrial states where Romney was evidently damaged, by his having opposed the controversial federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. Instead, he favored federal aid after a managed bankruptcy to erase the automakers’ financial obligations.

Florida is a swing state with a growing Democrat-favoring Latino population, and with one in four voters a senior citizen. Democrats scored with a “Medicare Scare,” about supposed GOP worsening of benefits such as the alternative of a voucher. Local Democrat voters, tuned into such issues, were happy to maintain their inspirational president and Senate edge.

Ultimately, advance and exit opinion polls showed, voters decided mostly on the economy and who they were most confident in leading the nation to recovery. Obama’s likability was crucial.

The second chance for Obama amidst worsening unemployment perplexed GOP leaders convinced their party’s candidate had a huge edge — both domestically and in foreign policy leadership. “Romney is competent, conservative, and a proven successful leader and job creator,” Henderson County Republican Party Chairman Mike Scruggs stated. “Obama is pushing our country off an economic and social cliff, disabling our military capability, and busy implementing a disastrous foreign policy agenda.”

Local Races

Meanwhile, in Henderson County incumbents prevailed in most contests including three of four on the school board. The newcomer is Josh Houston, 33, a First Citizens bank branch manager. He was the lone school board candidate endorsed by the county GOP and local TEA Party, and by the Conservative Christian Action Team on CCAT leaflets distributed outside voting precincts. Winners were Mary Louise Corn (18.8%) Chairman Ervin Bazzle (13.8%), Houston (13.7%) and Rick Wood (13.3%). They finished ahead of former board member Debbie Reemes Ford (12.5%), Charles E. Thomas (10.5%), Sonia Gironda (8.6%) and Michael Absher (8.4%).

The GOP won state and local seats representing Henderson County. Transylvania County School Board chairman Chris Whitmire beat George Alley in the N.C. District 113 open race. He calls for lower state corporate tax and gasoline tax rates. Unopposed were State Rep. Chuck McGrady in District 117, and powerful State Sen. Tom Apodaca in District 48 that includes South Buncombe. Also unopposed were Charlie Messer and Grady Hawkins, in the two commissioner races on the ballot.

A marquee matchup pit two former assistant prosecutors with contrasting personalities, in an open judge race in District 29B for Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. More scholarly-behaving Emily Cowan won 65.5-34.5 percent over clever punster Will Cathey, an attorney who was Rosman mayor as a Democrat. Judge Peter Knight was reelected, 69-31 percent over Robin Bowen. Judges Athena Brooks and Mack Brittain were unopposed. In District 28 judicial races for Buncombe, judges Calvin Hill and Andrea Dray were unopposed.

In Buncombe County, State Sen. Martin Nesbitt was reelected 62-38 percent over R.L. Clark in District 49. Republicans won two State House races as Nathan Ramsey beat Susan E. Wilson 54.5-45.5 percent in District 115 and Tim Moffit topped Jane Whilden 56.3-43.7 percent in District 116. Democrat Susan C. Fisher was unopposed, in District 114.

Buncombe’s commissioner contests lived up to historic drama, with power switching to Republicans for the first time in 24 years. They won four of the seven seats, which were all up for grabs. Democrat David Gantt was reelected as chairman by 61.5-38.5 percent over J.B. Howard. Democrats Holly Jones (46%) and Brownie Newman (39.6%) beat Don Guge (15%), in Asheville’s District 1.

But the GOP won close races in the other two districts. The state created districts, for area representation and to lessen board dominance by Asheville. In District 2, Mike Fryar (25.15%) and Christina Kelley Merrill (25%) edged Democrats Ellen Frost and two-termer Carol Weir Peterson (both 24.9%). In District 3, the GOP’s Joe Belcher (27.6% and David King (26.4%) defeated Michelle Pace Wood and Terry Van Duyn (both 23%). Top vote-getters in each district serve four years, with runners-up serving two-year terms.

In Buncombe school board races, Dusty Pless Jr. edged Jerry Green 40.57-39.57 percent for an at-large seat. In specific school district seats, respiratory therapist Amy Churchill unseated Steve Sizemore (Roberson) while Ann B. Franklin (North Buncombe) and Chip Craig (Owen) were reelected.

Results will be official after a voter canvass Nov. 16. Two out of three registered voters in Buncombe and Henderson counties voted as did 68 percent statewide, according to election board data.

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