Local Politics

Wake commissioners tilt to GOP

Posted November 3, 2010 1:40 a.m. EDT
Updated November 3, 2010 11:22 p.m. EDT

— Republican candidates won all four seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners that were on Tuesday's ballot, putting the divided board into GOP hands.

Democrats have held a 4-3 majority on the board in recent years, but Tuesday's results flip that split in favor of Republicans.

Incumbent Republican commissioners Joe Bryan, Tony Gurley and Paul Coble easily won re-election, while Republican challenger Phil Matthews knocked off Democratic Commissioner Lindy Brown.

“I am happy. I am excited and have appreciated all the support people have given us,” Bryan said.

What will the shift mean for the county? 

Betty Lou Ward, a Democrat on the board, remembers when Republicans took control in the 1990s.

“Our board stayed in Republican domination for several years. It wasn’t always easy,” Ward said.

Ward thinks members of the two parties can work together. She does not expect any massive changes.

Ward said the conservative leadership have their work cut out for them.

“By virtue of the fact we have so many budget problems, it is going to be interesting to see how some other group deals with them,” Ward said.

School Board Chair Ron Margiotta says the Republican swing is proof voters support the direction of the district. A move from diversity based school assignments to neighborhood based assignments.

“Certainly supportive of what the school board has been doing,” Margiotta said.

Bryan thinks that was just one of many issues on voter's minds.

“To govern all the Wake County’s issues, not just the school board,” he said.

Ward does not see the connection.

“Stuff that was thrown out about our board and the school board, that’s kind of silly really,” she said.

Other counties see Republican shift

Three Democratic commissioners in Chatham County lost their re-election bids, putting Republicans in control with a 3-2 margin. Democrats lost three of four commissioner races in Lee County, moving that board to a 4-3 Republican majority.

In other local races in the Triangle, Democrat Calvin Woodard won a hotly contested race for sheriff in Wilson County by almost a 2-1 margin.

Woodard, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation and a former Wilson County deputy, defeated longtime Sheriff Wayne Gay in the Democratic primary, prompting an independent run by John Farmer, a major in the Wilson County Sheriff's Office.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill, Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass and Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell all easily won re-election.

Local-option sales taxes were soundly defeated in Harnett and Person counties, and voters in Orange County also appeared to have rejected a proposal to add a quarter-cent to the local sales tax rate to pay for growth-related needs.

Durham voters approved a $20 million bond issue to repair about 150 miles of city-maintained streets.

A statewide referendum to amend the North Carolina Constitution and prohibit convicted felons from serving as county sheriffs also easily passed.