Electorate delivers mixed midterm bag

Published 4:02 pm Friday, December 31, 2010

Staff Writer

An upset in state House District 6 and the re-election of three incumbent Beaufort County commissioners ranked No. 2 in the Daily News’ list of the Top 10 local stories of 2010.
First-time candidate Bill Cook stood astride a Republican avalanche as he unseated four-term state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort.
“I worked very hard, I had a lot of good people helping me,” Cook told the Daily News on election night. “I tried to run a good campaign and I’ve done what I felt was important.”
Early in the campaign season, some political observers said a win by Cook — a relative newcomer to the area who lives in the Cypress Landing community — was unlikely given that Washington resident Williams had a huge fundraising advantage, and had spent a virtual lifetime building political connections in the area.
Some Democrats attributed Cook’s rise partly to a GOP-friendly advertising onslaught from outside advocacy groups, political figures and the N.C. Republican Party.
“That one is hard to explain,” Alice Mills Sadler, chairwoman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, said just after the election results were known on Nov. 2. “We expected that Arthur was in trouble early on and did whatever we could to get the word out, the good word out, about what he’s done for the community. Evidently, we didn’t get it out soon enough.”
Williams pointed to an anti-Democratic tide that swamped his party’s candidates across the state as the GOP gained a majority in both houses of the Legislature for the first time in more than a century.
“I think, to be honest with you, I really think everybody’s upset with the federal government and Obama and all that stuff, and I think they used that and blamed me for that,” he said late on the night of Nov. 2. “I didn’t have any more to do with that than you did. I’m not so tickled with what the federal government’s doing, either.”
Late this year, Cook was busy meeting with civic leaders and local government officials, getting briefings on legislative priorities in advance of taking office next month.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help keep as much political power in our area as I can,” he said during an interview at the end of November.
In other election news, most voters chose to stick with the familiar in the county commissioner races, sending all three board incumbents back for four-year terms.
Three opponents proved little challenge to the incumbents, Commissioners Al Klemm, Ed Booth and Stan Deatherage.
Prior to Election Day, a couple of wild cards loomed, as armchair analysts were unsure how most voters would respond to the sitting commissioners’ handling of property revaluations and the financial crisis gripping Beaufort Regional Health System.
Widespread anger at the incumbents didn’t appear to be reflected in the final tallies.
Deatherage emerged as the top vote-getter, an outcome he said “shocked” him after the polls closed.
“I’m shocked I’d be ahead at this point, especially with so many huge issues on the table right now,” Deatherage said after viewing returns from about 18 of the county’s 21 precincts. “And in some sectors I know I’m not terribly popular, but I’m somewhat shocked that the voters have saw fit to keep me in office. I intend to not let them down and to continue exactly what I’ve done in the past into the future.”
Klemm, who placed second, said he was “surprised how strong all the incumbents ran.”
“I thought the votes would have been more evenly split,” he said. “It just says that the various constituencies think their candidate is doing their job for them.”
Booth, the third-place finisher, seemed to agree.
“It’s been a big turnout and people really trusted us with the way we were running the county,” he commented. “I was honest with people, and I’m going to continue to be honest with people. This was a tough year.”
Reader’s No. 2 Choice: Property Revaluations