Elect 2012: Caskey, Pierce and Walton join Belk in commissioner race

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — After Tuesday’s runoff elections, Republicans and Democrats each have their November tickets set for two open seats on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
In unofficial results, Ralph Walton defeated Corey Hill to earn a spot on the Democratic ticket. His name will appear next to former commissioner Leda Belk, who earned enough votes in the primary to avoid a runoff.
The Republican runoff reversed the results of the first primary. Craig Pierce and Mike Caskey beat out Gene Miller and former commissioner Gus Andrews to get their names on the ballot.
Pierce topped the Republicans with 26.46 percent of the vote, or 2,838 votes.
“I’ll tell you right now, I didn’t win it by myself,” Pierce said. “All the people that got behind me and knocked on doors, went out with handouts and put out signs for me — those are the people that won this election for me.”
In the past few weeks, Caskey and Pierce endorsed each other and campaigned together informally. Pierce said he thinks that decision to team up was the turning point in the election.
“What the vote showed tonight is that people are ready to have conservative values represent the county instead of liberal values,” Pierce said. “Mike and I are good friends, and we have similar views. … I think the Republican party has a very strong ticket.”
Caskey said when he and Pierce looked at the results of the first primary, they saw that Caskey was weakest in the northern part of the county and Pierce was weakest in the south. They decided to try to help each other win in those areas.
“I knew it was going to be close, but not this close,” Caskey said. “This just shows that we had four good candidates, and any one of us could have won.”
He said he was pleased with his second-place results of 25.56 percent, or 2,741 votes.
“I’m thankful to all the supporters I had out there working for me, who were making phone calls, handing out cards and going door to door,” Caskey said.
Andrews came in third with 24.64 percent, or 2,642 votes.
“I’d like to congratulate Craig and Mike,” he said. “They did an outstanding job, and I’m proud of them. … If I can be of any help to them, I look forward to it.”
Andrews said he appreciates everyone who voted for him and helped his campaign.
“Whether you team up or not, it’s about who can get the voters out, and the voters worked harder to come out to vote for them,” Andrews said.
Miller said he was surprised to finish last with 23.34 percent, or 2,503 votes.
“It just boiled down to the number of people who came out to vote,” he said. “I hope they serve the county well, and I’ll support them the best I can.”
Miller said he doesn’t know how the alliance between two of his opponents may have affected the results.
“Two years ago, actually, I tried that with myself, Jon Barber and Jim Greene,” Miller said. “Obviously it didn’t work then, so there were some more factors involved both then and this time around.”
On the Democratic side, Walton said his victory surprised him, even though he got more votes than Hill in the first primary. In the runoff, Walton won with 52.86 percent, or 721 votes.
“It all depends on the very few people who go and vote, and apparently I had a few more than he did,” he said.
Walton said he’s pleased with the results, but he hates that the runoff was decided by such a small number of people.
“I appreciate very much all 721 people who went and voted for me,” he said. “Instead of several thousand last time, at least 721 went back, and I hope those and many thousand more will go back in the fall.”
Hill, who received 47.14 percent of the vote, or 643 votes, said he also was disappointed with the low turnout.
“But now we know who our candidates will be in November, and we need to move forward and focus on what’s at hand,” Hill said.
Hill said he appreciates everybody who supported him, and he “probably will” decide to run again in the future.
“This is my first time running, and I learned a lot this time,” Hill said. “I wish the results would have been a little different tonight, obviously, but we will take that as we need to do more work, and we’ll go back to the drawing board.”
According to the Rowan Board of Elections website, turnout for the second primary, which also included some runoffs in statewide races, was just over 8 percent. Statewide, about 3.6 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the Associated Press reported.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Twitter: twitter.com/postcopolitics
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Rowan County Board of
primary runoff

Ralph Walton 721
Corey Hill 643

Craig Pierce 2,838
Mike Caskey 2,741
Gus Andrews 2,642
Gene Miller 2,503