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Dems enjoy an OC sweep

By Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

Orange went blue in a big way.

Preliminary numbers show that 74,920 voters in Orange County cast their ballots, a turnout of 71 percent, putting the county slightly higher than the state turnout of 68.61 percent, as a record 4.3 million North Carolinians voted.

You might not have noticed, though, if you were looking for signs in the form of long lines on Election Day.

By the time Tuesday rolled around, more than 55,000 ballots had already been cast at one of five early voting sites in the county, almost double the number in 2004. Compare that to the roughly 19,200 who voted on Election Day.

The early turnout and a steady cool drizzle didn’t stop poll watchers and canvassers from making the best of matters.

“It’s slow now, but it will pick up,” Heiderose Kober said around midday Tuesday from her station at the Democratic Party tent set up behind the Cane Creek Baptist Church Activities Center, perhaps the prettiest polling place in the county. She always likes working at the poll behind the church, where even on a morning like Tuesday’s the farms and fields visible from the vista are like something out of a postcard.

In town, the turnout story Tuesday was similar.

There was no waiting at the North Carrboro precinct, but not for lack of interest. An estimated 77 percent of the precinct’s 2,464 registered voters had already cast their ballots. That left about 450 residents eligible to vote on Election Day. A poll worker at the precinct reported that this included a teenager casting his first presidential ballot and an 80-year-old woman who wanted to help make history. By day’s end, 309 precinct residents voted.

Though larger than most years, a heavy turnout in Orange County is not all that unusual. Neither is a tally that skews Democratic.

Results from Tuesday night show that 30,364 Democrats voted a straight ticket compared to 8,952 Republicans and 283 Libertarians.

At the top of the ticket, Democratic nominee Barack Obama drew 53,712 votes in Orange County, contributing to a razor thin and, at press time, unofficial victory in North Carolina, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic candidate for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976. GOP nominee John McCain received 20,226 votes and Libertarian candidate Bob Barr won 518 votes. There were 313 write-ins.
Orange voters came out heavily for U.S. Fourth District Congressman David Price, giving him almost 72 percent of the vote to Republican William Lawson’s 28 percent.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Chapel Hill Democrat, also prevailed, defeating GOP Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory with 65 percent of the vote. That race tightened at the end thanks in part to McCrory’s cross-party support, including Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton.

The county also backed Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan’s successful challenge against one-term Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole.

State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who prevailed in her bid for re-election against GOP challenger Greg Bass, was one of Hagan’s early backers.

“I’m delighted,” Kinnaird said. “I always said only a woman candidate could defeat Dole.”
Kinnaird was the only member of the county’s legislative delegation in a contested race this year. Reps. Joe Hackney, Verla Insko and Bill Faison — all Democrats — will be returning to Raleigh. Faison did draw some opposition, with groups opposed to a new airport asking residents to not vote a straight ticket and withhold their vote for Faison as a demonstration of their ire over his support of the project.

Kinnaird said while she is savoring her victory, the job ahead for the Legislature is not going to be easy with a sagging economy and the state already looking at a massive deficit.

“My goal is to prevent cuts to the most vulnerable,” Kinnaird said. She recalled the politically difficult decision she made to vote against her own party’s budget because of deep cuts due to a similar deficit. “My job is to persuade my colleagues we can’t do that again.”

Tuesday night also saw the realignment of the new board of county commissioners with the addition of two seats and election by district for three of the seven commissioners.

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