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Energized Democrats return incumbents to council in Winston-Salem

by Jordan Green

jordan@yesweekly.com @JordanGreenYES

Democratic voters rallied in Winston- Salem, reelecting incumbents in the 7/8 Democratic majority city council by even more resounding numbers than four years ago, signaling confidence in a fragile downtown development push led by Mayor Allen Joines.

Joines easily won reelection, carrying all but one precinct, and commanding 84.3 percent of the vote against Republican James Lee Knox, a towtruck operator who alienated his party leadership by using a racial slur against an election worker. Having an opponent only put a slight dent in Joines armor, considering that he won 90.7 percent of the vote running unopposed in 2009.

Forsyth County Democrats corralled 82.0 percent of the straight-party ballots, compared to 68.2 percent during the last municipal election of 2009, with an electorate already gearing up for midterm elections next year, when both state legislative and congressional candidates will be on the ballot.

In the most closely watched race of the night, Democrat Jeff MacIntosh ran away with the race in the Northwest Ward, dusting Republican Lida Hayes Calvert by a 16.7-percent margin in unofficial results.

“Both candidates worked really hard,” MacIntosh said after receiving a call from Calvert to concede the race. “To some degree, we had a bigger organization and had momentum after the primary.”

MacIntosh said he was not focused on what his first priority would be as a new member of city council.

In contrast to MacIntosh’s 58.2 percent showing, Wanda Merschel — the last Democrat on the ballot and the seat’s current occupant — only pulled 53.3 percent as an incumbent against her Republican challenger in 2009.

Calvert, a businesswoman who owns a painting business and has served on a number of volunteer boards in the city, said she has no regrets.

“I want to congratulate Jeff,” she said.

“He was a gentleman from start to finish. I wish him the very best, and I will be there if he needs me at any time to support him and to make Winston-Salem an even better place to raise our children to grow up.”

Democrat Denise D. Adams, who won a second term to represent the North Ward, also widened her margin of victory, besting tea party Republican challenger Patricia Kleinmaier, 71.7 percent to 27.7 percent, compared to her 65.9 percent to 33.9 percent win over former opponent John Hopkins in 2009.

“I’m humbled,” Adams said. “I’m glad the voters have given me an opportunity to finish the job. And there is work to do. I’m glad we all get to come back.”

She said she plans to focus more on her ward during her second term, and hold community meetings — a practice for which colleagues Derwin Montgomery and James Taylor in the East and Southeast wards respectively have gained renown.

“Economic development is still at the forefront,” Adams said. “We need more incubator businesses to start up. You can’t do anything without small business. We’ve seen how they bring in big boxes every now and then. The main linchpin is small business.”

Adams added that she plans to request data from staff to determine if the North Ward is getting the same investment as other areas of the city.

“You’ve got to have the same quality of life in the North Ward as every other part of the city,” Adams said. “I need to focus on the North Ward, and I think my colleagues understand that.”

High Democratic turnout also carried into the Northeast Ward, where council veteran Vivian Burke walked away with 75.1 percent of the vote, compared to 69.7 percent in 2009. Burke’s victory was all the more impressive for having two opponents as opposed to one split up the remainder of the balloting. Keith King, an unaffiliated candidate, earned 14.1 percent of the vote while Michael Owens took 10.6 percent.

Democrat Molly Leight took 71.5 percent of the vote in the South Ward against Republican challenger Nathan Jones’ 28.1 percent. Leight carried all precincts, including Jones’ home precinct of Griffith Fire Station on the Davidson county line. Leight’s performance improved from 2009, when she two write-in campaigns, including Jones and former primary opponent Carolyn Highsmith, snatched 42.2 percent of the vote.

Democrat James Taylor likewise improved his showing over his Republican challenger, Mike Hunger, who did not campaign, compared to the balloting in 2009.

And in the Southwest Ward, Democrat Dan Besse won 81.1 percent, compared to Republican Donald T. Shaw, an 81-year-old plumbing and heating company owner who ran an amiable if relaxed campaign. Four years ago, when Besse faced a younger and better funded Republican challenger, the breakdown was only 58.0 percent to 41.8 percent.

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