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Watauga County Democratic Party ‘Proud’ of Showing, Effort Put Into Midterm Elections, Looking Forward to 2016

By Jesse Wood

Nov. 5, 2014. While the end result from Election Day was “a little disappointing” for local Democrats, Ian O’Keefe, campaign coordinator for the Watauga County Democratic Party, said the party is “thrilled” to have won a few races and particularly “proud” of the effort that volunteers and candidates put into the midterm elections.

“I think we fought this Republican wave the best we could, and we have great accomplishments to be proud of in this election,” O’Keefe said.

Republicans retained its majority on the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, sat two conservatives on the Watauga County Board of Education and voted N.C. Sen. Dan Soucek and Jonathan Jordan to another term in the N.C. General Assembly. Republicans also saw Thom Tillis beat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and incumbent U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx beat Josh Brannon.

A local Democrat works the polls on Election Day. Photo by Lonnie Webster
A local Democrat works the polls on Election Day. Photo by Lonnie Webster

While the local conservative blog, A Watauga Conservative, described last night as pitching an “almost perfect game,” Democrats say they are able to toot their own horn as well.

Local Democrats saw incumbent Commissioner Billy Kennedy secure a four-year term on the board. The local party also saw Jay Fenwick earn the most votes of any of the school board candidates. Also, incumbent Watauga Sheriff Len Hagaman, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Randy Townsend decisively with 57 percent of the vote to earn a third consecutive term. Sue Counts, while not winning the race, beat Jordan by more than 80 votes in Watauga, and Josh Brannon was eight votes shy of taking Watauga from Foxx.

“We are so proud of Billy Kennedy, Jay Fenwick, Len Hagaman. In fact we came close to ousting David Blust, which is a huge accomplishment for Larry Turnbow,” O’Keefe said.

In addition, O’Keefe said he was also excited for Diane Deal, who ran unopposed and will serve another term as the Watauga County Clerk of Court; that liberal judges secured seats in the state; and early voting at Appalachian State University was restored.

O’Keefe noted that “looking across the state at other races and the nation, we fared quite well compared to other Democrats across the country.”

“It’s always difficult in a Republican-wave year, in midterm elections. I am personally proud knowing everyone fought hard in this election and am proud of what we did,” he said. “[Democrats represent 26 percent of voters in Watauga]. We fought great odds and, in my opinion, came out strong.”

With midterm elections, where voter turnout is much lower than it is during a presidential election, out of the way, O’Keefe said he is looking forward to 2016.

“I am excited to move into 2015 to win some more races. I think we will do well in the municipal elections and I’m willing to wager that we are going to do really well in 2016,” O’Keefe said.

For more election coverage, click to https://www.hcpress.com/politics/2014-elections.

To see election results from across the state, click to the State Board of Elections website.

Correction: Jimmy Hodges received the most votes of any commissioner – not Billy Kennedy.