Dems Sweep Top Jobs
BY JOHN KRAHNERT III, FLORENCE GILKESON AND TOM EMBREY
Of The Pilot Staff
Moore County Democrats reveled Tuesday night in the victories of their candidates in the presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.
Sen. Barack Obama, the first African-American ever to be elected president, capped off his historic 21-month presidential campaign with a stunning victory over Republican Sen. John McCain in the general election.
"It's an impossible dream come true," said Earl Jones, one of the Obama supporters who gathered at the Days Inn in Southern Pines to watch the election returns and celebrate a long-awaited night.
Jones, who volunteered at the South Southern Pines voting precinct, said the results "didn't make him smile" until Obama won the state of Ohio -- one of the key battleground states in the election.
Obama performed much better than expected in North Carolina, a state that voted in big numbers for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 and hasn't gone Democratic since 1976. According to unofficial returns, Obama won North Carolina by a slim margin.
But in Moore County, a Republican stronghold, McCain defeated Obama 27,165 to 17,534, or 60.25 percent to 38.89 percent.
In the gubernatorial race, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue edged out Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory 50 percent to 47 percent, or by some 136,00 votes. McCrory carried Moore County by 58.18 percent, or 26,048 votes, to 39.06 percent or 17,487 votes.
In the hotly contested U.S Senate race, state Sen. Kay Hagan soundly defeated Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole 53 percent to 44 percent, or by about 353,000 votes. Like fellow Republicans McCain and McCrory, Dole also won Moore County 53.38 percent to 43.32 percent, or 23,906 votes to 19,400.
"It's a great night, and there are a lot of reasons for it," county Democratic Chairman Brian Deaton said at the Days Inn celebration, praising the efforts of the volunteers and the candidates. "We had a lot of really good candidates to support. It takes a good ground game to generate a win. Whatever success we have is due to organization and hard work of our people."
Tim Smith, a self-described community organizer, said there were too many words and too many stories to describe how he felt.
"You find the most amazing people around here," Smith said. "They're just beautiful, wonderful people. You can't work on a grassroots level and not expect greatness. I will never be able to say thank you enough."
Smith and his wife, Shannon, have been working on the Obama campaign in Moore County since before the Iowa Caucus back in January. Since that time, the organization has grown from just 10 members to several dozen. He described the growth as being "like a fishing tale" -- it just kept getting bigger and bigger.
As in the primary race, Smith expected an Obama victory in the general election.
Kevin Duffy, an eighth-grader at The O'Neal School in Southern Pines, was on hand to experience the victory. While he isn't old enough to vote, he was excited about the future of the country under an Obama presidency.
Duffy said he was surprised to see Obama wrap up the election so quickly.
"It's surprising to see how he has dominated and how McCain has fallen," he said.
Even though Democrats did not win a single race in Moore County, the county headquarters also resounded with excitement Tuesday night.
Jonah Person, an 80-year-old black man who lives in Robbins, said he did not expect to live long enough to see a black man win the presidency. In fact, he confessed that he had not expected it to happen in the lifetimes of his children or grandchildren.
"I am overwhelmed," he said at the Democratic headquarters, where a large group of party supporters had gathered after the polls closed.
Person, a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, said he made his first foray into the political arena in 1952 and has been active ever since. That includes 37 years in New Jersey and the last 15 back home in Robbins.
"We had a great time working together," Mary Alice Wicker said of the cooperative effort to get out the vote in Moore County. She served as a co-chair of that initiative.
Despite the lack of local Democratic victories, Wicker said the turnout was impressive and party leaders learned much from the work carried out, including coordination with the local Obama for President campaign, which was conducted separately.
"We met so many people from different parts of the county that we didn't know before, and it was a good experience all around," Wicker said.
At that point, a cheer rang out across the headquarters meeting room in Carthage as they heard Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole deliver her concession speech on television. She congratulated her winning opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan.
Mixed Feelings for GOP
The mood was festive yet somber at a gathering for local Republican candidates at the Hampton Inn in Aberdeen.
Republicans had great success locally, but those gains failed to translate to the state and national level.
"For our local candidates, it's been a good night," said Maureen Krueger, the incumbent district attorney, who easily won re-election.
Former Gov. James Holshouser credited the local Republican success to the hard work of the candidates, whom he praised for getting out and meeting voters and doing "what candidates should do."
Krueger said the votes by Moore Countians spoke to the grassroots effort involved in local politics.
"As a party, we (Republicans) came together in Moore County to support their candidates," Krueger said. "It tells me that Moore County has faith in its local candidates and knows that we will do a good job representing them."
Jamie Boles, who won election to the state House, said he and other elected officials will have their work cut out for them.
"Nationally, we are all going to have to work together," Boles said. "Regardless of who was going to win there was going to be change."
Several supporters at the local Republican gathering expressed shock at the overwhelming success of Obama and Democratic candidates in state and national races.
"With all due respect to Mr. Obama, it staggers me," Walter Bennett said. "He has no record. He is an empty suit."
Bennett said that Republicans have lost their focus over the past decade and a half and have forgotten "how to stand on their principles."
Holshouser called the 2008 election "historic," saying it signified a shift in direction of the country. He singled out the economy and the recent financial crisis as a defining issue.
"If you have to pick one thing, that would be it," Holshouser said. "Without that, you might have had a different outcome. It changed the complexion of the election."
Holshouser said it was important for Republicans at all levels to work together with Democrats to find solutions to national problems.
He said the election results will likely cause some "self-examination" by the Republican Party. When asked what could or should be done differently in the future, Holshouser called it too soon to say for sure.
"I have some ideas," Holshouser said, "but right now those ideas would need a lot of flesh on the bone before they are floated around."
County Republican Party Chairman John Owen blamed the media for "electing this country's president."
"They have everything," Owen said, speaking of the Democrats' success in gaining control of the presidency and both the U.S. Senate and House.
"They have very close to absolute authority," he said. "They have promised the world, and now they are going to have to deliver, and if they fail they will have no one to blame but themselves."
Owen predicted that Republicans would regain control of the U.S. House and Senate in the next election.
In two years, he predicted, the Democrats will lose control "and lose it miserably."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at florence@thepilot. com. Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2477 or by e-mail at tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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