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News State / Region Republicans sweep elections in Western North Carolina

Red-shirted Macon County Republican Party interim chair Kathy Hildreth stands between the winner of the commisioner race, Paul Higdon, (L) and Sen. Jim Davis who retained his seat in the N. C. Senate. Photo by Betsey GooderRepublicans sweep elections in Western North Carolina

Voters came out in droves for the 2012 election, wanting a chance to make a difference from local to presidential politics. Despite chilly weather, people of Western North Carolina headed to the polls on Tuesday and saw lots of changes in current leadership.

While preliminary results put President Barack Obama winning re-election nationally with both the popular vote and the electoral college votes, he narrowly lost North Carolina with 48.29 percent to Governor Mitt Romney's 50.45 percent of the vote.

With so much at stake, out of the 6,649,188 registered voters in North Carolina, 68.37 percent or 4,546,330 voters took to the polls for the 2012 election. In Macon County, 67.63 percent or 17,039 of the 25,196 registered voters cast their ballots.

The Macon County Board of Commissioners will see a change next week, as Republican challenger Paul Higdon beat out Democratic incumbent Bobby Kuppers with a 57.08 to 42.92 percent or 2,000 vote victory.

Higdon, who resides in Burningtown, has worked for the Macon County Health Department before opening his own business. He hopes to bring a conservative voice to the board with common-sense ideas and by taking a stance against regulations.

Incumbent commissioners Kevin Corbin and Jimmy Tate both secured their seats as they ran uncontested races.

The Macon County Board of Education will see the first change in leadership for District III in 28 years. Incumbent Tommy Baldwin lost to challenger Melissa Bateman Evans by 763 votes. Baldwin has served the Nantahala community for nearly three decades, a service that Evans has previously recognized as honorable.

During her campaign, Evans noted that she decided to run for office to ensure that her grandchildren received the best education possible.

School board members Stephanie McCall and Jim Breedlove were also re-elected and both ran uncontested races.

One of WNC's closely contested races ended up not being as close as voters thought. In the rematch between Republican Senator Jim Davis and former Democratic Senator John Snow for the 50th District Senate seat, Davis won with 57.14 percent to Snow's 42.86 percent. Davis won his home county of Macon by 59.06 percent to Snow's 40.94 percent.

“I am very pleased with the outcome of the election,” said Davis Wednesday morning. “It has been an honor serving the people of the 50th Senate District these last two years and I am looking forward to the opportunity to do it for another two years.”

According to Davis, he is already working on things he wants to see improve during his next term. “Obviously our economy is a huge focus and we have to continue to identify ways to strengthen and better our economic outlook.”

Davis noted that he has already shifted his focus from the campaign to the legislative session that is planned for the end of January.

Another highly publicized race in Western North Carolina was the seat left up for grabs after current 11th District U.S. Congressman Heath Shuler announced he would be retiring at the end of this term. Republican Mark Meadows was able to secure the 11th U.S. Congressional seat with 57.4 percent of the votes on Tuesday. Facing Shuler's former Chief of Staff Hayden Rogers who was able to secure 42.6 percent of the vote, Meadows took an early lead and won 13 of the 17 counties in the district including Macon County where he won 58.9 percent compared to Rogers’ 41.1 percent. “I am humbled and honored by the confidence the hard working people of the 11th District have placed in me,” said Meadows, “and I pledge to listen carefully and work diligently to represent each person in Congress." Commenting that he isn't interested in casting blame or focusing on the past, Meadows said, "Congress has a massive workload over the next two years. We have critical needs here in our district, our state, and across America. My mission is to fight to free small businesses from excessive government and secure the freedoms our Western North Carolina families hold dear.”

Rogers congratulated Meadows on the victory. “I entered this race nine months ago because I care about the people of these mountains. I believe that Western North Carolina deserves a representative who will always put people before partisanship,” said Rogers in a statement on the election results. “This has been a hard fought and spirited campaign ... I congratulate Mr. Meadows on his victory and wish him success as our next U.S. Representative.

Both Meadows and Rogers ran a surprisingly clean campaign, for which Meadows commended Rogers during his acceptance speech Tuesday night.

Other races in Western North Carolina shifted right on Tuesday night. After serving a decade in Raleigh representing N.C. House District 118, Democratic incumbent Ray Rapp was defeated by Republican challenger Michele Presnell by just shy of 1,000 votes.

In the governor's race, a seat left open after Democrat Bev. Perdue announced earlier this year she would not seek reelection was secured by Republican Pat McCrory with 54.68 percent to Democratic challenger and former Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton's 43.16 percent.

The Lieutenant Governor's race was slightly closer with Republican Dan Forest winning the seat over Democrat Linda Coleman by less than 12,000 votes.

The sole Democrat to win on Tuesday was Joe Sam Queen who will replace retiring long-time House of Representative Phil Haire. Queen was able to secure 51.68 percent of the votes giving him a 1,079 lead over Republican challenger Mike Clampitt.

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