Republicans in McDowell easily win commission, state Legislative races; sales tax increase defeated

Republican Brenda Vaughn was the top vote-getter in the McDowell County Commission race and was elected to her seat in her own right after being appointed earlier this year. Fellow Republicans David Walker and Tony Brown were easily re-elected to their seats on the Board of Commissioners.

Likewise, N.C. Rep. Josh Dobson and N.C. Sen. Ralph Hise, both Republicans, easily won re-election to their seats in the General Assembly. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican, handily won another term defeating his Democratic challenger Phillip Price, who is from McDowell.

Greg Barksdale won a seat on the McDowell County Board of Education.

But voters in McDowell gave their strong disapproval to the proposed increase of the local sales tax by one-quarter percent. McDowell voters cast 9,456 against the increase while only 4,580 gave their support.

In the race for the McDowell County Commission, Vaughn came out on top with 10,145 votes. Earlier this year, she had been appointed to her seat on the board as a replacement for Matthew Crawford, who resigned so he could take another job.

Now, Vaughn is a commissioner in her own right.

“I would like to thank God, my family, and the citizens of McDowell County,” she said in a prepared statement. “I am humbled but committed to doing a good job for all of McDowell County. I want to particularly thank all the other candidates that have filed for County Commissioner. It takes bravery to step out and place your name for election to public service. I am committed to building a stronger McDowell County. I will continue to support education, public safety, infrastructure, and preserving our natural resources.”

Brown placed second with 9,489 votes and won re-election to another term as a commissioner.

“I really appreciate all the people who supported me and helped me get re-elected,” said Brown on Wednesday. “I feel like we’ve made progress in the past four years. We’ve strengthened our economy here. We’re just going to continue to work hard to keep our county progressing. I have a great love for the county and I want to see it grow.”

Walker came in third with 8,976 and it was enough for him to continue as a commissioner.

“I want to say congratulations to all candidates who ran for county commissioner, Democrat and Republican,” he said Wednesday. “They all ran a clean campaign. I want to thank every voter who went out and voted for me and I consider it a real honor to represent you for another four years.”

Walker added the county has several projects that are currently underway that he wants to see completed. The first one is improving the county’s infrastructure, which includes establishing a water filtration plant at Lake James that would provide water for the county’s water system. The county plans to extend future water line to the areas where they are needed, he said.

The other project focuses on education, specifically the Old Fort Elementary project.

“I look forward to working with the School Board on bringing that to completion,” said Walker.

The third concerns public safety and the building of a new EMS base. The county is also planning to build phase three of the Catawba River greenway.

Another item is the ongoing industrial recruitment and retention of current industries, said Walker. He added the county will continue to build on the partnerships with the city of Marion, the school system, McDowell Technical Community College and the town of Old Fort.

Democrat Paula Swepson Avery finished a distant fourth with 4,618 and fellow Democrat Michelle Price placed fifth with 4,443.

In a narrow race for a Marion seat on the McDowell County Board of Education, incumbent Greg Barksdale squeaked by with 154 more votes than his opponent Steve Chapman Jr.

Barksdale got 5,868 while Chapman got 5,714.

“I’m just happy that it went the way it did, and I’m hoping we continue going in the same direction,” said Barksdale by phone on Wednesday. “I didn’t get to meet Steve, but my wife and kids did and had nothing but wonderful things to say about him. I appreciate him running a clean race.”

Other seats on the Board of Education were not contested. Terry Frank won re-election to the Glenwood seat with 10,390 and did not face formal opposition. Likewise, Bob Brackett won re-election to the Nebo seat with 10,148 without opposition. Brian Piercy won re-election to the Pleasant Gardens seat with 10,002 and did not have formal opposition.

Clerk of Superior Court Melissa Holland Adams, also a Republican, did not face opposition and received 11,841 votes. Sheriff Ricky “Buck” Buchanan, also a Republican, was elected to the office in his own right without opposition with 11,880 votes after he was appointed earlier this year by the local GOP. Neil Brackett won another term as McDowell Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor with 10,734 votes and did not face opposition.

In the race for the 85th District seat in the N.C. House of Representatives, Republican incumbent Josh Dobson won a commanding victory over his Democratic opponent Howard Larsen. Districtwide, Dobson got 20,217 votes, or almost 75 percent, while Larsen got 6,750 or 25 percent. In McDowell, Dobson got 10,523 while Larsen got 3,889.

“McDowell County has been very good to me over the past eight years, two as a county commissioner and six as a state representative,” said Dobson on Wednesday. “I am humbled and honored by the support.”

In the race for the 47th District seat in the N.C. Senate, Republican Ralph Hise was elected to another term with 44,024 districtwide. His Democratic opponent David Wheeler got 26,559 across the 47th District. In McDowell, Hise got 9,741 while Wheeler received 4,713.

"It is an honor and privilege to be elected to a fifth term in the North Carolina Senate," said Hise in a prepared statement. "I am very humbled to have carried all six counties in the district by such great margins despite the nastiness of this campaign and the national direction. I thank everyone so much for their hard work and support in this election. I am grateful to continue representing our mountain values in Raleigh!"  

In the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican incumbent Mark Meadows easily won re-election across the 11th Congressional District. In McDowell County, Meadows received 10,194 votes. The Democratic opponent Phillip Price – who is from McDowell – only got 4,200 votes in his home county. Clifton B. Ingram Jr., the Libertarian candidate, got 224 votes here.

“I'm honored, humbled, and grateful to again receive the trust of Western North Carolinians to serve them in Congress for another term,” said Meadows in a prepared statement from his office. “Their support has been unwavering and truly means the world to me.

“President Trump's ‘America First’ leadership and conservative reforms in Congress have unleashed our country's potential over the last two years. Taxes have been cut across the board, resulting in nearly four million jobs created. Unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years. Record numbers of regulations have been cut or rolled back. We have a new pro-worker trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Over 80 conservative judges have been confirmed to the courts, including two originalist Supreme Court Justices. And our embassy is finally in Israel's true, undivided capital: Jerusalem. These are just a few examples of the long list of victories we've seen in just 21 months.

“But make no mistake: we have more work to do. I'm proud to stay in the fight to rein in the federal government's power and return it back into the hands of its rightful owner: the American people. When all is said and done, no matter who controls Congress, this will be my goal.

“Through everything, the foundational principle of my time in Washington will never change: my voting card does not belong to me. It belongs to the people of North Carolina's eleventh district. Regardless of the consequences, political or otherwise, my promise is to serve them and keep their interests first above all others. They deserve nothing less in their representative.

“Thank you to the great people of Western NC for giving me the honor of serving them for another term. Above all, thank you to my Heavenly Father who makes all things possible.”

In the election for District Attorney, Republican incumbent Ted Bell faced no formal opposition. In McDowell, he received 11,792 votes. Across District 41, he got 29,776.

In the race for District Court Judge for 29A, incumbent Randy Pool easily won another term on the bench. He got 20,988 districtwide. His challenger Corey MacKinnon got 10,453 districtwide.

In McDowell, Pool got 8,030 while MacKinnon got 4,462.

The McDowell News attempted to reach Pool for comment on Wednesday.

Along with the rest of North Carolina, voters in McDowell were asked to make decisions on six proposed amendments to the state Constitution. Local voters gave their strong support to all six of them. Here is how McDowell voters stood on these amendments:

• Protecting the right to hunt and fish. 10,655 for 3,760 against.

• Strengthening victims’ rights. 10,325 for 3,849 against.

• Maximum income tax rate of 7 percent. 9,834 for 4,402 against.

• Requiring a photo ID to vote. 10,404 for 4,003 against.

• Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission. 7,752 for 6,007 against.

• Bipartisan board of ethics and elections. 7,229 for 6,497 against.

These numbers are all unofficial and will remain so until certified by the McDowell County Board of Elections.

Reporter Ginny Rhodes contributed to this story.

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