Election reflections

May. 07, 2014 @ 04:35 PM

Trying to divine deep meaning in the hours after an election is always difficult, although editorialists, commentators and folks around the water cooler all ritualistically take a stab at it.

That said, no overriding theme was apparent in Tuesday’s voting. It’s possible, however, to tease out some threads and contemplate what we’ll see as the campaign begins for the Nov. 7 general election.

Turnout was unsurprising yet nonetheless disappointing. Only 15 percent of Durham’s registered voters bothered to cast a ballot.  In other words, for every citizen who cared enough to go to the polls, more than five others said to heck with it.

Forgive our cynicism, but we don’t doubt that many of the absent 85 percent will soon be blogging and braying about the performance of leaders they declined to help choose.

For those who voted, in some instances they seemed satisfied with the status quo. Appointed incumbent sheriff Mike Andrews – facing voters for the first time -- coasted to election. Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols, despite a spirited challenge, easily won the office to which he was deemed the heir-apparent.

In Orange County, incumbent commissioners Barry Jacobs and Earl McKee kept their seats with comfortable margins -- in Jacobs’ case, more than two-to-one over his opponent.

For the Durham School Board, however, change is clearly in the air. Granted, much of that was foreordained when two incumbents chose not to seek reelection. The one incumbent who did want to return, Omega Curtis Parker, found voters in District 1 eager for a new face – perhaps in part because of her support to the end of Eric Becoats’ imploding superintendency.

It will be interesting to watch the dynamics of the board with three new members. If the board sticks to its plans to replace Becoats before the end of June, at the new superintendent’s first board meeting, three of the seven folks around the table will not have been involved in the hiring vote.

Finally, at the statewide level, the more established wing of the Republican Party clearly coalesced around House Speaker Thom Tillis, rebuffing the tea-party takeover that doomed Republicans in many congressional and senatorial races two years ago.

If there is any certain prediction that can be made as we pivot toward November, it is that we will be deluged with advertising for – or more precisely, against – Tillis and Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. The GOP needs to pick up six Senate seats to gain a majority, and they see first-termer Hagan as vulnerable.

So millions of dollars will pour into this state, much of it financing attack ads that will do much to incite and little to edify.  Much of it -- on both sides -- will be from loosely independent political groups with little stake in North Carolina and everything at stake in Washington’s balance of power.

It will be ugly. And it may, sadly, be a reason those 85 percent of the voters who stayed home Tuesday feel affirmed in their avoidance.