Guilford County Commission shifts right, turn out high

by Eric Ginsburg

Republicans won every available seat on the Guilford County Commissioners Tuesday, with Hank Henning winning District 6 but by a smaller lead than some expected. Henning, who won a challenging primary and run-off election as well, nervously watched results come in on the board of elections website from the Republican Party headquarters, but ultimately pulled away with 16,633 votes over Kellerman’s 14,671.

Incumbent Democrat Kirk Perkins lost his seat to Republican Jerry Alan Branson despite a lead in early voting and winning a cluster of precincts in the central part of District 4 — which primarily covers rural eastern Guilford County — but Branson led in the northern and southern parts of the district. Branson received 52.73 percent of the vote, almost 2,000 more ballots than Perkins.

It was impossible to call neighboring District 5 until the last precincts reported, as Republican challenger Jeff Phillips held a 13-vote lead over incumbent Paul Gibson with 18 out of 23 precincts reporting. The race was anticipated to be close, but with more than 30,000 votes cast in the first 18 precincts to report, the gap could have hardly been smaller. Phillips pulled ahead as the final precincts came in, and with only one left to report his lead grew to more than 600.

Republican Trudy Wade, who currently serves on Greensboro City Council, defeated newcomer Democrat Myra Slone for NC Senate District 27 by a wide margin, the most watched race for the state legislature in Guilford County. Incumbent Republicans Phil Berger, John Faircloth and John Blust, as well as Democrat Alma Adams, all fended off challengers with ease to return to the General Assembly.

Democrats and Republicans both made large last-minute pushes in Greensboro, knocking on doors, passing out literature, observing polling places and making calls.

In the central part of Guilford County Commission District 5, which covers the north-central part of the city and county, turnout was high in part due to early voting.

Gibson, who stopped at several precincts in the area, described the center of the district as the “pink” area, blending the more Democraticleaning southern part of the district with the conservative northern portion.

At Irving Park United Methodist Church, turnout for the precinct hit 78 percent before 3 p.m., in part because 57 percent of registered voters cast their ballots during early voting, Precinct Judge Rich Paschal said.

Isabella Adkins, an activist with Conservatives for Guilford County, was among several Republicans campaigning outside of the Irving Park church, including judicial candidate Susan Bray’s sister. Some of their material, as well as flyers for Gibson that Clare Abel was passing out, were inside the precinct’s no-campaigning zone, and Paschal said they went through about once an hour to pick up the material that voters had discarded inside the building.

By midday around 50 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots in the Lawndale Baptist Church precinct G23, nearly two thirds of them during early voting. Like other polling places, Precinct Judge JW Ryals said there was only a line first thing in the morning, and even then it was gone in 90 minutes.

Elizabeth Smith, a volunteer with Guilford County Republican Women, was the only person passing out literature outside, but she said US Congress District 6 candidate Tony Foriest and other Democrats had been there earlier in the day. As it began to drizzle lightly, Smith said early voting had been good for the voters but made her long day outside her church relatively boring.

The Irving Park site and Lawndale Baptist Church both didn’t have any poll observers, though the Democrats had 199 throughout the county and the Republicans had 138. Bob Ramos, the sole observer at Claxton Elementary School, said everything had been running smoothly since the polls opened.

“It’s been awfully steady but early voting has had an effect,” said Ramos, an observer with the Guilford County Republican Party. “This area is strictly Republican, just from the feel of things.”

Ramos has lived in the precinct, which has one of the highest turnouts in the city and is one of the most staunchly Republican since 1982, and he said that while a younger generation is moving into the area, they seem to be conservative as well.

Outside Claxton, Gibson and two supporters talked to approaching voters as Frank Reiter and Wayne Hardister, father of the newly elected NC Rep. John Hardister, wore buttons for Gibson’s opponent Jeff Phillips and passed out conservative literature.

Reiter, the precinct captain for Conservatives for Guilford County, said he agreed with Phillips on many things and found him to be very personable.

“I am a very conservative person,” Reiter said.

“He has strong Christian values too that I appreciated.”

Democrats sent two poll observers to Glenwood Presbyterian Church, where a line briefly formed around lunchtime but where Republicans didn’t station any observers. Charlie Collicutt, the deputy chair of the Guilford County Board of Elections, said he couldn’t discern a pattern for where the parties decided to send observers.

In the only competitive nonpartisan race besides judicial ones, incumbent Sandra Alexander prevailed over Pat Tillman who has been active in the Guilford County Republican Party by approximately 8,000 votes.