Friday, November 6, 1998
Despite active involvement by Democrats in Fayette's local election this year, Republicans sailed into four county positions Tuesday with around 70 percent of the vote in each race.
"Yes, I was surprised," said Kathy Chamberlin, chairman of the county Republican Party. "I almost expected us to lose at least one race, and I thought two would be a lot closer.
"But we put up a good group of candidates and they worked hard," she added. "They'll do a good job for the county and I think the voters know that."
Democratic Party Chairman Ernest Broadwell said he was gratified by the local candidates' hard work, and he expects the party to continue being an active player in Fayette.
"We're not going to throw every Republican out of Fayette immediately, but I'm very encouraged," he said.
Democrats here can crow about one victory, that of Clayton resident Greg Hecht over Fayette son Bill Bonner in the 34th District state Senate race.
Bonner pulled just over 60 percent of the vote in Fayette, but a strong showing for Hecht in his home county Clayton, and close results in portions of Douglas and Fulton counties that are also in that district, put the Democrat over the top.
Bonner said the fact that Hecht did better in Fayette than expected can be attributed to hard work by Democrats in local races.
"The Democratic Party was better organized and more energized than they have been in the past," he said. "They had people out working.
"Kenwood [in Fayette] was the first precinct reporting, and I was down 62-38. That told me it was going to be a long night because Democrats were out voting," Bonner added. "In the past, at worst it would be 50-50 there."
Clayton County Democrats also turned out in droves, Bonner said. "Fifty percent more people voted there than have in the last three general elections," he said. Clayton countians, accounting for 48 percent of the total vote in the district, gave Hecht a 2-1 margin in the county. "If it was reversed and Fayette had that strong a turnout, we would have been the winner," said Bonner.
"I thought we would win this race, but I thought it would be closer than it was," said Hecht. "I feel very positive about it."
He offered an olive branch to local Republicans, saying he plans to represent the entire district equally. "The idea is to represent everybody, whether they voted for us or didn't vote for us," he said. "Most of us are just plain folks."
"I'm disappointed for Bill," said Chamberlin. "He would have been a great senator."
Broadwell said he is happy for Hecht. "He'll do a fine job," he said.
The best showing for a local Republican was that of Linda Wells, who took 72.61 percent of the vote for County Commission Post 4 over veteran campaigner Bruce Bannister.
"I was absolutely blown away," Wells said of the result. "I feel vindicated a little bit too," she said. "A lot of people told me I was listening to a small, vocal minority and didn't really have my finger on the pulse of what people were thinking.
"A number of people tried to dissuade me from running," she said. "This makes me feel like I'm on the right track."
Greg Dunn, a newcomer to the political scene, did almost as well in the commission Post 5 race, taking 70.49 percent of the vote over Fayetteville businessman Stuart Barnes.
For Board of Education, Greg Powers sailed into Post 4 with 69.74 percent over well-known former Fayetteville mayor Roger Marietta, and Mickey Littlefield posted 68.89 percent against Carolyn Fludd.
Voter turnout in Fayette was down a bit compared with previous elections. Of 49,213 registered voters, 27,264 voted, a 55 percent turnout. In the 1994 gubernatorial election, 58 percent turned out, and in 1990 it was 64 percent.
Chamberlin said she is certain that negative campaigning for national and state offices was at least partly to blame. "I don't remember ever having so much negative campaigning in many, many years," she said.
"Even I was feeling that way. I got tired of seeing it and hearing it. There was too much focusing on the negative and not enough time spent discussing positive issues," she said.