It's no small matter to replace by appointment a popularly elected public official with someone from the opposing political party. The voters of Watauga County had reelected Democrat Glenn Hodges to the clerk's office many times over, but when Hodges retired unexpectedly last week, senior resident Superior Court Judge James L. Baker, who had the power to make the appointment, chose not only a Republican but also a Republican who worked as Judge Baker's own assistant.
But now for the rest of the story: Judge Baker was evidently under pressure from the local GOP to appoint a different local Republican, one who had intended to run for the office in 2010. That appointment would have given any candidate of either party a definite leg up. As a Republican judge, Baker might have been expected to act in a partisan way, but his appointment was actually an avoidance of partisanship.
So the calculus is more complicated, and the 2010 race for the office will be one of the hotter tickets in town.