11/03/04 — Parties are subdued on Election Night

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Parties are subdued on Election Night

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on November 3, 2004 1:59 PM

Many people associate Election Night with parties -- as in the political organizations and the victory celebrations.

But on Tuesday the mood was all but celebratory, even for the winners. One reason might be more than 2,000 provisional ballots still waiting to be counted, which could turn the tide in some races.

But even in the cases where a candidate clearly won, the mood at the celebration events seemed more subdued. One observer said, "Everyone just looked tired."

Maybe that's the result of close races, where candidates have to work extra hard to get their supporters to the polls.

Or maybe it's the result of voters crossing party lines, causing winning candidates from making a big to-do in front of their comrades who lost.

Despite a general lack of excitement, the Election Night proved to be one like any other, in that it brought together groups of people who have worked hard to drum up interest for our most important democratic event.

And if they don't feel like partying, well, who can blame them? They deserve a rest.


At Democratic Headquart-ers on Center Street, a couple of candidates anxiously awaited results Tuesday.

Lois Mooring, candidate for Register of Deeds, sat at a desk in the headquarters, listening intently to the local election results on the radio. A wall hanging of the Statue of Liberty decorated the wall in front of her, accompanied by historic photos of national Democratic winners.

Behind her, school board candidate Joe Hackett paced, occasionally answering a call on his cell phone.

Hackett's youngest daughter came running up and asked, "How are you, Daddy? Are you good?"

He patted her shoulder, saying, "Yes, I'm good."

Ms. Mooring leaned in to hear the totals on the radio, breathing a sigh of relief as the numbers were read aloud.

"Whew, that was close," she said.

County Commissioners Chairman J.D. Evans and Commissioner John Bell, both running unopposed, wandered through the headquarters.

More than a dozen chairs lined the walls of the small building, facing a table that was groaning with food.

Kids darted in and out, grabbing a handful of chips and sandwiches on their way by.

In the back corner of the room, several people gathered around a small television, listening to Patrick Ballantine, Republican candidate for governor, announce his defeat Gov. Mike Easley.

Back at the Board of Elections, a small group has gathered to watch the election results come in. Some local races are still too close to call, but around 10 p.m. Bud Gray is declared the winner of the county commissioner race.

Gray has no comment yet on his apparent, but unofficial victory.

"I'm still in shock," he said.

Sen. John Kerr supporters have gathered at the Lantern Inn, eating and drinking, as they watch the election results on television.

It's after 10, and it looks like Kerr has a decided victory in Wayne County. The verdict is still out in the other areas, so though the atmosphere is upbeat, there's no celebrating yet.

At the Elks Lodge, school board member Pete Gurley is gathered with friends and family in a back room, monitoring the races on a local television station.

Gurley stares at the screen, as if he's willing his numbers to come on.

The station breaks, and comes back, with no update of Gurley's position in the election.

"They cut mine off," he said. "Didn't they?"

By 11 p.m., both Gurley and Ms. Mooring, have been declared the unofficial winners in their categories.


The mood grew from excited to tense Tuesday night at Wayne County Republican Headquarters as the news grew worse for candidates who were there.

About 40 people split up into two rooms, the television watchers in the front and phone answerers in the back.

People were calling in local precinct results, and Ann Sullivan was taking notes. When the results from a precinct were significant for a certain candidate, she would call that person into the room and tell them.

Ed Wharton, commissioner candidate, was looking good early in the evening, but he wouldn't say anything except that this was his fourth time running for office. He had run for state Senate after two tries for county commissioner. The first and second time, he had run against D.J. Pelt, and now, he was making a third bid for county commissioner.

He said he has been surprised before, twice by less than 100 votes, and he wanted to wait until later to talk about results, especially since 1,500 provisional votes were going to be counted next Tuesday.

"I was ahead the first time, and one precinct hadn't come in," he said. "It came in, and I lost the election."

Four years ago while Wharton was running for state Senate, Republican Arnold Flowers ran against Pelt and defeated him. But after his term, Flowers decided not to run again. Wharton said he stepped back into the fray to try to replace Flowers. "The pressure came down on old Ed again, and I said, 'I'm too old for this, guys.'"

Ms. Sullivan called in Christ West around 9 p.m. and told him he had won in the Belfast precinct. She said he also got 27 votes from the Wayne Center in Goldsboro. Republicans usually don't get as many as two there, she said.

West ended up losing after all of the precinct results were called in to Ms. Sullivan. He was down by more than 1,000 votes, and the last precinct still hadn't called Ms. Sullivan.

Close races are nerve-wracking, said Wharton at around 9:30 p.m. after a television station said he and Hal Keck, Republican at-large commissioner candidate, were up three points.

As the night wore on, though, both Keck and Wharton saw their leads slip away.

But neither was ready to concede defeat, because there are more than 2,000 provisional ballots left to be counted.

"We anticipated a close race," said Keck.