Election gives newcomers a seat on local boards

Election Day photo by Vickie Carpenter

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Gary Shields
Danny Antoine
John Shearl
Stephanie Hyder Laseter
Diedre Breeden

As Macon County’s 15 precincts closed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, Nov. 8, the Board of Elections office in Franklin came alive with activity. Of the approximately 28,000 registered Macon County voters, about 9,600 voted early – about 32 percent  – with a total of 56.47% voters casting their ballot in what many in the nation dubbed a “historic” mid-term election, due to the possibility of Republicans tipping both the House of Representatives and the Senate from Democratic majority.

But in Macon County, a gradual shift from a strong Democrat majority to a Republican majority began taking shape “three to four decades ago,” explained Gary Dills, a Macon County Board of Elections member for the past 12 years and the current vice chairman. 

In fact, numbers released Nov. 6 via the “Review of Voter History Statistics by Voter Tabulation District & Party Voted” – essentially a report on early voters – determined 4,165 were Republican and 1,756, Democrat; 2,958 unaffiliated and 13 Libertarian.  

Final tallies late in the evening of Nov. 8 determined the winners of the county and state open seats. 

State results

– U.S. Senate – Ted Budd (R)

– U.S. House of Representatives (District 11) – Chuck Edwards (R)

– N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice (Seat 3) – Richard Dietz (R)

– N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice (Seat 5) – Trey Allen (R)

– N.C. Court of Appeals Judge (Seat 8) – Julee Tate Flood (R)

– N.C. Court of Appeals Judge (Seat 9) – Donna Stroud (R)

– N.C. Court of Appeals Judge (Seat 10) – John M. Tyson (R)

– N.C. Court of Appeals Judge (Seat 11) – Michael J. Stading (R)

– N.C. State Senate (District 50) – Kevin Corbin (R)

– N.C. House of Representatives (District 20) – Karl E. Gillespie (R)

– N.C. Superior Court Judge (District 30A-Seat 1) – William H. Coward (R)

– N.C. District Court Judge (District 30-Seat 1) – Donna Forga (R)

– N.C. District Court Judge (District 30-Seat 2) – Kristina Lynn Earwood (R)

– N.C. District Court Judge (District 30-Seat 3) – Roy Wijewickrama (D)

-District Attorney (District 43) – Ashley Hornsby Welch (R)

Macon County

– Board of Commissioners (District 1) – John Shearl (R)

– Board of Commissioners (District 2) – Gary Shields (R)  and Danny Antoine (R)

– Clerk of Superior Court – Shawna Thun Lamb (R)

– Register of Deeds – Todd Raby (D)

– Sheriff – Brent Holbrooks (R)

– Board of Education (District 2) -Stephanie Hyder Laseter and Danny Reitmeier

– Board of Education (District 4) – Diedre Kaye Breeden

– Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors – Matthew C. Reynolds and Pamela Peek Bell

In terms of the ballot’s referendum on the Macon County local sales and use tax at the rate of one-quarter percent in addition to all other State and local sales and use taxes, 54.89% of voters were against it – meaning the tax increase did not pass. 

A close race, which was not called until 12:01 a.m. Nov. 9, was the one between Ted Budd (R) and Cheri Beasley (D). Beasley told her supporters that she encouraged her opponent “to stand in the tradition of our state to be an independent leader who puts North Carolina first” when she spoke to him over the phone. “And I hope he will,” she added.

N.C. State Senator Kevin Corbin (R) kept his seat, winning a decisive victory over Karen Burnette McCracken (D) 74.98% to 25.02% – 11,698 votes to 3,903 votes, reported N.C. State Board of Elections. 

Returning as a Macon County Commissioner is Rep. Gary Shields.

 “I feel honored to be a Macon County Commissioner. I respect all political parties represented but I still feel that I represent the people of Macon County and what is best for the youth of Macon County. I will continue to focus on the budget items that represent the safety of Macon County, Health and Human Services and Education. These areas represent over 70 percent of our annual county budget,” Shields commented late Tuesday evening.

Also victorious in the county commissioner’s race was newcomer Danny Antoine, a Franklin business owner since 2000. As the owner of Danny Antoine’s Martial Arts Academy, with a wife and family (15 children and 11 grandchildren), the Republican told Macon County News Oct. 20 that the reason he became a candidate was because, as a business person and a member of two nonprofit boards, he desired to also “… serve Macon County at a greater capacity.”

Longtime commissioner Ronnie Beale received 19.71% of the votes in the race for Macon County Commissioners, where he has served for 16 years. With only two spots open, Beale lost his seat on the board.  

Regarding voting locally, Dills shared that visits to precincts by volunteers, of which the Board of Elections gained additional people this year, determined a “strong turnout.” Highlands and Union precincts were especially busy, he noted. “Any time you have competitive races, you’re going to have a good turnout,” he said. “What we’ve seen is an increase in absentee ballots – especially since COVID. Absentee ballots are convenient … secure. It makes more work for us, but that’s what we do. People like ease of voting. And I think 50% of people in Macon County will have voted early.” 

The day before the mid-term election, the NC Network for Fair, Safe and Secure elections reported that more than 2.1 million people had voted in North Carolina during the early voting period, at 359 polling locations, without any major incidents or disruptions.

Prior to the election, the biggest concern, explained Dills, involved the fairness of the election process. 

“I let everyone I talked to know that we worry about that more than anyone. Paper ballots are the way to go. Like an SAT, technology counts the dots … pretty much foolproof.”

For 2023 and future elections, new voting machines will be tested in January with a mock voting session and, if they perform accurately, have been approved for purchase to replace outdated machines in Macon County.