The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday May 17th

GOP Can Be a Contender in Orange County

It's not easy being an Orange County Republican.

Not that I could find any to ask on Election Night.

While the Orange County Democrats were watching election results roll in at the West End Wine Bar on Franklin Street, their Republican counterparts were, for the most part, at home not preparing for victory celebrations.

There were no real surprises in the countywide races.

The Democrats cleaned up in Orange County, winning both state House and state Senate seats, both open seats on the county Board of Commissioners and the U.S. Congress seat.

If losing is a foregone conclusion, why run in Orange County as a Republican?

Orange County commissioner candidate David Herman said that although he didn't expect to win, he was tired of watching Orange County commissioner candidates run unopposed.

He wanted to at least make the Democrats spend some money.

Republican commissioner candidate Wesley Cook said, "I am glad that I ran. I feel good that we addressed the issues that rural Orange County residents are concerned about."

I might not agree with them politically, but I definitely admire their chutzpah.

And their efforts might not go unrewarded for long.

"Howard (Lee) and Ellie (Kinnaird) had some fairly strong competition," said Carrboro Alderman Alex Zaffron, consultant for the Orange County Democrats.

Lee and Kinnaird, incumbents, defeated Republican candidates Bill Boyd and Vickie Hargrove.

To be honest, Kinnaird is one of my favorite Orange County politicians, and as a voter, I'll pull for her every race.

But as an observer, I think it would be fun to watch a Republican who was a strong enough candidate to shake things up a little.

One way to get more political diversity on the board would be to change from the countywide election system to district elections.

Herman ran with that as part of his platform. He said northern Orange County is not represented by an all-Democratic board.

And he makes a good case. Herman argues that northern Orange County has more registered Republicans than the rest of the county.

He should know. He lives in there.

And it makes sense. It would be surprising if the rest of Orange County were as liberal as Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Herman's point is that the rural part of the county is getting the shaft in every election.

In fact, four of the commissioners live in Hillsborough, and one lives in Chapel Hill, neither of which are rural areas.

Orange County Democrats Chairwoman Barbara Worthington served on a committee 10 years ago that looked into going to district elections.

She said committee members recommended the board consider making the change.

But the Board of Commissioners already represents the county, Worthington said.

"The people who represent the majority of the people are the people who are going to be elected anyway."

She makes a good point as well. If the Board of Commissioners redistricted to favor northern Orange County, then the board might not accurately reflect the majority of the county.

It seems Herman's idea would be a lot like playing Calvin Ball - the game Calvin played with Hobbes and made up the rules as he went along so that he would always win.

As much as I want to see some political diversity in Orange County, I'd rather see it happen because there are strong candidates running from the challenging party than because someone changed the rules to give Republicans a better chance of winning.

Columnist Erin Mendell can be reached at


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