Ford, Coltrain win commission seats
By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypostRowan voters picked two new county commissioners Tuesday ó Democrat Raymond Coltrain and Republican Carl Ford.
At the same time, they ousted Republican Jim Sides, an unapologetic conservative who rankled some.
Ford, a China Grove broadcaster who has lost count of how many times he has run for commissioner, pulled out the biggest surprise.
Ford was the leading vote getter with 29,834 votes.
Coltrain, who narrowly lost in his first bid for commissioner in 2006, won this time with 28,180 votes, more than 600 votes ahead of Sides with 27,369 votes.
Laura R. Lyerly, the 29-year-old UNC-Chapel Hill political science graduate, came in fourth with 18,725 votes. Lyerly didn’t campaign and didn’t participate in any forums or campaign events.
Lyerly apparently benefitted from straight party voting, while thousands of voters apparently opted to cast single-shot votes in the commissioners race. The election totals showed 19,194 only voted for one candidate in the commissioners’ race or didn’t vote in that race at all.
The outcome of the race wasn’t certain until around 10 p.m. Several precincts in the Kannapolis area remained out.
The 51-year-old Ford, who grew up in Kannapolis and worked at Cannon Mills for a short while, thanked his supporters for a lot of hard work and prayers.
“I hate to see Jim lose. I hate to see a lot of Republicans lose,” Ford said, adding that Sides has helped him by getting him on the Planning Board and Social Services Board.
Ford acknowledged he is philosophically close to Sides on most issues. The major exceptions are the need for a land-use plan and incentives for prospective businesses. Ford supports both, and Sides does not.
Ford said he is ready to go to work and expects to spend a lot of time getting up to speed by the Dec. 1 start of the term.
Ford and Coltrain exchanged handshakes and congratulations.
Coltrain also thanked his supporters. “Candidates appear, people do the work, then their efforts are rewarded.”
As the final results were displayed on a huge screen in the Cohen Administrative Office Building, Coltrain’s victory drew a hearty round of applause. Dozens of people lined up to shake his hand and offer congratulations.
The 59-year-old retired superintendent of the Piedmont Research Station will be the second Democrat on the Board of Commissioners, the first time that has happened in almost two decades.
Democrat Tina Hall, a retired school administrator from Mount Ulla, won a seat on the commission in 2006.
Hall has generally lined up with Sides on most issues.
Sides said he may well be on the ballot in two years. He was going out to get his signs and have them ready for the next campaign.
“I make no apologizes. I feel I did what was right,” Sides said.
He cited the strong Democratic run as a factor in his loss, adding that county employees and the school staff are not happy with him.
As the precinct totals were reported, Sides was down more than 2,000 votes most of the evening, finally narrowing the gap as Rock Grove, Kannapolis and China Grove precincts reported.
The 60-year-old owner of a wholesale T-shirt business served his first term on the board in 1980.
“It’s time to concentrate on my business and family. I’ve pretty much forsaken them ,” Sides said. “I can come back in two years.”
Looking at the current economic times, Sides found a silver lining. “This is the right time to loose. With the economy the way it is, they won’t be able to do what’s promised. There’s no money.”
The new commissioners take office on Dec. 1.
Coltrain and Ford will join Hall, Jon Barber and Chad Mitchell.
Arnold Chamberlain, the current chairman, did not seek re-election.