Election continues shifting makeup of county board

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypostNext month, 33-year-old Chad Mitchell will become the longest-serving incumbent Rowan County commissioner.
A combination of voters rejecting incumbents and commissioners bowing out have led to amazing turnover on a board.
Mitchell, a Republican in the middle of his second term, said Wednesday turnover on the county board is greater than has been seen in a long time.
For years, commissioners routinely served two and three four-year terms.
In Tuesday’s balloting, Republican Jim Sides became the latest commissioner ousted by voters.
“Some said a candidate got Hillaried in the primary, Jim got Obamad,” Mitchell said. “That office got swept up in the combination of anti-incumbency and anti-Republican.”
Arnold Chamberlain, current chairman of the Board of Commissioners and also a Republican, didn’t seek re-election.
Chamberlain and Sides will be replaced by two newcomers, Republican Carl Ford and Democrat Raymond Coltrain.
Mitchell joined the board in 2002, serving with Steve Blount, Gus Andrews, Frank Tadlock and Leda Belk. They are all gone.
Blount, Andrews and Tadlock opted not to seek re-election. Belk lost. Tadlock died in January 2007 after a battle with brain cancer.
Entering his seventh year on the board in December, Mitchell will be serving with his fourth reconstituted board. Chamberlain and Sides joined the board in 2004, Jon Barber and Tina Hall joined in 2006.
“Not in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would be the senior member at my age,” Mitchell said. “Look at the group who has served. It has been a stable board.”
Mitchell pointed to Newton Cohen, who served 16 years, and Blount and Tadlock, who each served 12 years.
Mitchell is also among the Rowan residents who have tried unsuccessfully to dislodge Mel Watt from the 12th U.S. House District seat.
“Mel Watt will be extremely difficult to beat. He represents his constituents well.” said Mitchell, who ran against Watt in 2000.
Scott Keadle, another Rowan resident who ran against Watt, has won a seat on the Iredell County Board of Commissioners. A dentist with a practice in Salisbury, Keadle has since moved to Mooresville. He won one of three seats on the Iredell board with 35,766 votes.
nnnSides got almost the same number of votes Tuesday that he did in 2004. In that election, he garnered 27,727 votes to be the top vote-getter.
On Tuesday, he got 27,195 votes and ended up finishing up in third place in the two-seat race.
nnnColtrain followed in the footsteps of Hall and Belk, two Democrats who lost in their first bids for the Board of Commissioners then won two years later in their second bids.
If that scenario continued, Laura Lyerly could be in place to run and win in 2010. But Lyerly failed to attend any events and didn’t campaign this year.
nnnMore Republicans cast straight-party votes than Democrats. A total of 14,554 Republicans voted straight party with 13,032 Democrats doing the same. And 231 Libertarians voted straight party.
nnnThe huge turnout of early voters ó 34,837 ó skewed the percentage turnout figures for the individual precincts. A total of 38.7 percent of registered voters cast ballots early.
The overall turnout was 69 percent countywide.
nnnCarl Ford carried the most precincts in the race for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners,
Ford, who said he has run at least five times, won the most votes in 24 of the county’s precincts.
Commissioner Jim Sides, who lost in Tuesday’s voting, carried eight precincts.
Raymond Coltrain got the most votes in 10 precincts, including eight in Salisbury, Spencer and Ellis.
Coltrain amassed huge margins in early voting, being the top vote-getter at the Cohen Administrative Office Building and the Rowan Public Library.
Benefitting from straight-party voting and the Obama campaign’s effort to get voters to the polls, both Democratic candidates ran up large margins over the Republican contenders.
At the Elections Office, Coltrain had 5,666 votes. Laura Lyerly, the fourth-place finisher, got 2,801.
Likewise, Coltrain and Lyerly amassed a 2,000-vote lead in early voting at the library.