Prior to the election, County Commission Chair James Coffey (about to be the ex-County Commissioner James Coffey) was overhead to remark that he thought the local Republicans would win all three seats on the County Commission but that if they had to lose one seat, he guessed he could work all right with Winston Kinsey but that he couldn't work at all with Jim Deal.
Mr. Coffey got at least half his wish ... he won't have to work with Jim Deal.
Apparently, Tuesday night the local radio announced that on the basis of 20 out of 20 precincts reporting that the Republicans had swept the County Commission. But ... oops ... they hadn't figured on the 10,500 votes that had been cast in "early voting," and that's where the Democrats won it. The Democratic vote was pumped this year and couldn't wait to get to the polls, so they went early. But their votes got counted late.
We don't have the numbers yet about straight-party voting, but we're betting that there were more straight-party ballots cast for Democrats than for Republicans, which would be the reverse of past history. In other words, it was not just ASU students who put in the Democrats. Their win depended on a fair number of Republicans who split their vote. We won't know for sure until those numbers become available.
In the meantime, some preliminary statistics:
Billy Ralph Winkler beat James Coffey by about 600 votes, taking the following precincts: Blowing Rock, Boone 1, Boone 2, Boone 3, Brushy Fork, and New River 1. Mr. Coffey won Bald Mountain, Beaver Dam, Blue Ridge, Cove Creek, Elk, Laurel Creek, Meat Camp, New River 2, New River 3 (by one measly vote!), Northfork, Shawneehaw, Stony Fork, Watauga, and Beech Mountain. Billy Ralph pulled it out by beating Coffey in early voting by 1,200 votes.
Winston Kinsey beat Allen Trivette in the three Boone precincts, Brushy Fork, New River 1, and New River 3. Trivette took Bald Mountain (by 11 votes), Beaver Dam, Blowing Rock (by 54 votes), Blue Ridge, Cove Creek, Elk (by 11 votes), Laurel Creek, Meat Camp, New River 2, Northfork, Shawneehaw, Stony Fork, Watauga, and Beech Mountain. Kinsey beat Trivette in early voting by 1,500 votes.
Deal beat newcomer Joe Phillips in Bald Mountain (by 9 votes), Blowing Rock, the three Boone precincts, Brushy Fork, Elk (by 2 votes), and the three New River precincts. Phillips took Beaver Dam, Blue Ridge (by 19 votes), Cove Creek, Laurel Creek, Meat Camp, Northfork, Shawneehaw, Stony Fork, Watauga, and Beech Mountain. Deal beat Phillips in early voting by 1,700 votes.
Do you see the pattern? Though Deal was the top vote-getter among Democrat County Commission candidates, Democratic strength across the board is centered in the two towns and their suburbs (though Deal took two rural precincts by slim margins). The Republican base lies in the most rural precincts.
NOTE: It's impossible to know (without a lot of extra work) the precincts of origin of the 10,500 early voters. If this data were known, some of the rural precincts that went so heavily Republican on Tuesday would perhaps not look so overwhelmingly "red." People came in for early voting from every precinct, but conventional wisdom is that the majority came from Boone and its suburbs.
Though Jim Deal was top vote-getter among Democratic commission candidates -- even polling higher than Governor Mike Easley -- no Democrat did better in Watauga than Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. Even Republicans love that woman!