Baldwin’s exit changes game

Published 8:41 am Friday, August 6, 2010

Staff Writer

Her reasons might have been personal, but Cindy Baldwin’s withdrawal from the Beaufort County commissioners race changed the game for the candidates who are still playing.
Baldwin, a novice commissioner candidate, was one of three Republicans vying for three available seats on the county board.
Though the local businesswoman’s candidacy has been the subject of some controversy among residents who have run afoul of her business endeavors, Baldwin said she ended her candidacy for personal reasons.
“My reason for withdrawal is that I still have four children at home,” she wrote in a statement e-mailed to the Daily News on Wednesday. “As a mother, my family is my first priority, and I do not want to lose sight of that goal.”
Motives aside, some political observers contend Baldwin’s exit gives an edge to Al Klemm and Stan Deatherage, the two incumbent Republicans in the field.
“Any time you have one less person that’s splitting the Republican vote, that’s going to help,” said Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party. “It doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure.”
In separate interviews, the three Democratic candidates emphasized a need to concentrate on their own races, not their opponents’ moves.
“I know it’s a high priority that Democrats take the (board) over,” said incumbent Ed Booth, “but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s about me. I just want to win, that’s all. I want to win.”
The two other Democrats seemed to echo Booth.
“With or without (Baldwin), I still have to do what I have to do,” said Sonya Shamseldin.
“We would love to pick up that extra seat,” Jerry Evans said. “There’s one I have a whole lot of interest in. That’s mine.”
Klemm endorses the theory that narrowing the field of GOP candidates to two enhances the party’s chances of hanging on to its 4-3 majority on the county board. He indicates there is an X-factor in this year’s race — Bertie Arnhols, reputedly the first unaffiliated commissioner candidate in the county’s history.
“In that way, it’s a little unlike it was six years ago,” Klemm said.
Arnhols said the Baldwin development won’t reshape her campaign.
“Her leaving or (the GOP) replacing her doesn’t change one iota what I feel like I need to do in order to be able to win,” she said.
Gaining or keeping a majority on the board of commissioners is symbolically important for adherents to the GOP or Democratic faiths. Though local commissioners rarely rise to higher office, they can be seen as standard-bearers for their parties and vessels by which partisan organizations can deliver their messages to voters.
Beyond symbolism, the commissioners set the county property-tax rate, establish water rates and perform other duties too numerous to mention in brief. Decisions on those matters are often driven or influenced by ideology, and certain Republican commissioners have been known to call their Democratic colleagues “tax-and-spend liberals,” while certain Democrats have been known to accuse their GOP fellows of wanting to make unnecessary cuts in staff and services.
For Deatherage, who said he counseled Baldwin to stay in the race, it’s all about conservatism.
“She said she wanted to do what she could do to help the party and make sure I would get re-elected,” he said. “She was concerned that there were other Republicans in the race that were not trying to forward the conservative message, and she had no doubts about me.”
Said Evans, “(Baldwin) was never in my equation anyway. I have to run my own campaign.”
Baldwin was courting supporters who might not have crossed over to vote for him, he said.
Still, “I want all votes,” Evans concluded.