May 16, 2014
The primary was fairly lackluster. U.S. Senate races topped the ticket and in a word Sen.r Kay Hagan is toast. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis easily topped 40 percent to avoid a run-off with GOP challengers. Hagan is the most vulnerable senator in the nation. Her alliance with Obama may have helped her in 2008. That alliance will hurt in 2014.
The sheriff’s race topped the Democratic primary. GOP operatives scored that race last summer, predicting Sealey would win with 64 percent as incumbents historically do well in that primary. The numbers never moved for six months and Sealey won 64.3 percent as expected. No surprises the incumbent won.
The Democratic base was happy the margin widened since the last match-up between Sealey and Watts. Both candidates had a great campaign and their glee is well-deserved. Republican analysts understand the deeper meaning of the widened margin though and are happy as well.
The data reveals Sealey won by a wider margin because fewer folks voted for Watts, not the other way around. Now while that sounds obvious, it’s much different than saying Sealey received significantly more votes this time. He didn’t.
Watts lost by 1,457 votes in 2010. He lost by 4,217 in 2014. But Sealey gained little. While Watts lost 2,760 votes between 2010 and 2014, Sealey only gained 193, winning by essentially the same voters both years.
Sure you also have to factor in a 14 percent decrease in voter turnout since the 2010 race, but then it must be considered that Democrats gained 4 percent more registered voters during those four years and unaffiliated gained 22 percent. Factoring increased registration against lower turnout, Sealey essentially lost ground. He should have gained more and certainly not the several thousand as the broader spread implies. It’s neither candidate’s fault though. Voters were just disinterested in the race and more were disinterested in Watts than Sealey.
Watts lost vote share in 32 out of 39 precincts since 2010. Sealey lost vote share in 21. Only six precincts of the 21 can Sealey’s lower vote count since 2010 be attributed to lower turnout alone. Fifteen precincts exceeded the statistical threshold to attribute to only turnout as the lower counts ranged from 24 percent to 37 percent fewer precinct level votes for Sealey since 2010.
This year the sheriff’s primary attracted 2,374 fewer voters than the 2010 match-up. Watts received 2,760 fewer votes. Notice Watts’ deficit nearly identically mirrors the lower turnout margin. Watts’s supporters from 2010 simply didn’t show up. The margin widened toward Watts, not away from him. The sheriff’s primary was essentially uneventful.
Since Republican David Edge opposed the excessive pay and benefits of county commissioners once joining the board, there has been a growing movement on the issue. Faline Locklear Dial’s success in District 4 is symbolic of that movement and that close race speaks for itself.
Looking forward, the General Election favors Republicans this year. Hagan has already begun attacking Tillis. Her team creatively edited past comments by Tillis to change the meaning. The method backfired because the media released Tillis’ entire comments exposing her fraud. Weak attacks are all she’s got to run on.
No one sees the commissioner or sheriff’s race getting that brutal. Edge exposed commissioner benefit excesses successfully and Meekins has only a minor political past he’s gotten behind him. No huge issues.
In the sheriff’s race, Randy Hammonds is a local favorite son who led 11 counties as captain of the Highway Patrol. He commanded nearly 300 lawmen and simultaneously worked with 11 sheriffs, including Sealey, during that time. Both Hammonds and Sealey are fine men and well-liked. So only substantive issues over policy and management should arise, which is a healthy thing.
Also with the unfortunate death of Keith Criscoe in the neighboring congressional cistrict, American Idol star Clay Aiken will now face incumbent Renee Ellmers, a Republican, the General Election. Really guys, Clay Aiken?
Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party.