11/07/12 — Best, Gray, McCullen out

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Best, Gray, McCullen out

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 7, 2012 1:46 PM

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Joe Daughtery claps after learning another county commission seat has been won by a Republican. Daughtery is one of five Republicans who won election or re-election to the county commission Tuesday.

With the exception of the county's two minority district commissioners, one of whom was unopposed, Wayne County voters Tuesday made history as they swept the Democratic Party out of power for the first time in more than a century.

Close to 200 of the party faithful and candidates gathered at the GOP headquarters in downtown Goldsboro to celebrate the election outcome and to talk about what the future might hold for a Republican-controlled board.

However, Wayne County GOP Chairman Bob Jackson said he is not aware of any agenda being already in the works for the new majority to take up when it takes power on Dec. 4.

"This probably is beyond anything that we thought would happen, even though we worked for it and hoped for it," he said following the celebration.

In unofficial results, Sandra McCullen of Dudley lost to Wayne Aycock of Pikeville in the at-large race 25,268 to 24,828.

District 6 Commissioner Jack Best lost to Joe Daughtery of Goldsboro 4,623 to 3,963, while District 5 Commissioner Bud Gray of the LaGrange community lost to Bill Pate of the Saulston community 4,432 to 2,899.

Democrat J.D. Evans of Dudley was the only challenged incumbent to retain his seat. Evans handily defeated Republican Kenny Talton of Mount Olive 5,210 to 1,983.

Three incumbents, Democrat John Bell and Republicans Steve Keen and Ray Mayo, were unopposed.

Bell, who is currently serving as board chairman, represents District 3 and was first elected in 2000. Keen represents District 4 and was first elected in 2008. Mayo, who represents District 1, was appointed to the board last December to fill the unexpired term of Andy Anderson, who retired.

Bell had an unofficial total of 7,841 votes, while Mayo had 6,833 and Keen had 6,613.

All totals are unofficial until the canvass on Nov. 16.

Some of those celebrating Tuesday attributed the party's success to a backlash against the Obama administration. Others placed it closer to home -- a reaction to board policies in recent years.

For Jackson, it was the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.

"We thought we were doing the right things to get some people elected," he said. "We worked a lot of hours. A lot of us did."

Those efforts included mailers, robocalls and live calls, he said. Jackson said he hated to call it "hype."

"It is energy, and it is contagious," he said. "You get it started and the more you get it rolling, the more people seem to come to it. I haven't seen the final numbers yet, but if in fact those who did a straight ticket increased quite a bit over '08 then that could be a part of it."

Locally, the issues are not as varied, Jackson said.

"But I think a lot of people are concerned about their taxes," he said. "They notice it more in hard times than they do when things are going well."

Also of concern is the high unemployment rate that has lingered for so long, he said.

Had things started to turn around two years ago, the Democrats would have benefited, he said.

The party's conservative message, including less taxes, less spending and less governance resonated with voters this year, especially those who have to work for a living, he said.

For Wayne Aycock, victory was humbling.

"I knew it was going to be close, and we ran a good clean race," Aycock said. "I just don't know what to say. I just feel so humbled that the taxpayers and citizens of Wayne County chose me to be one of their county commissioners.

"The only thing I can promise is that I will do the best that I can for four years. There are some things that need to be addressed."

A lifelong resident of the Nahunta community, Aycock said it felt "great" to be part of the historic board.

"There have just been so many things going on in the last few months that people are just tired of hearing and are tired of things going on," he said. "I just feel like the citizens were fed up with some of the things that were going on, and that was one reason that the board changed as much as it did."

Aycock said he couldn't "pinpoint" anything he wanted to see done when he takes office.

"This is all so new to me," he said. "I have got to get my feet wet and I have got to rely on some of the board members who have been on to bring me up to speed on what is going on."

Mrs. McCullen, who is completing her first term, could not be reached for comment.

"I would say we have made history tonight in Wayne County," said Pate, 55, the retired manager of the Wayne County Employment Security Commission-Joblink Career Center. "The voters made a big statement that it is time for some new folks to step in and go in a little bit different direction than they did in the past.

"I was surprised that I won by the margin that I did. But again, I think it was a lot of hard work and a lot of people including myself and Mrs. (Susan) Walton, who was my treasurer. I think that early voting was critical to my victory. We spent every day at Woodmen of the World and there was heavy voting over there. I think that made a huge difference."

Pate said he thinks the results are a reflection of the state's decision to elect a Republican governor.

For Wayne County to "have a chip at the table," there needed to be a Republican voice in the county commission, he said.

Pate said he is looking forward to getting to work.

"This is my first trip into politics and I had to learn a lot on the way. It was a real eye-opener. We will work together for the betterment of Wayne County. That is what we are here for, and that is what the voters expect of us, and that is what we are going to do."

Gray, who was first elected in 2004, was watching the returns with his family at the New Hope Fire Station, where he has been a member of the department for more than 50 years.

"It ain't looking so good, depending on how you look at it," Gray said. "I am surprised. It's time for a change, I reckon. I am OK. I am just going to come back to farming, the fire department and my family. I have plenty to do."

Gray said he thinks the results are an indication of a backlash against the Obama administration.

Daughtery, who lost against Best in 2008, had no comment.

Daughtery is a former member of the Wayne County Board of Elections, and is a mobile home dealer.

"First of all I want to congratulate Joe Daughtery and I hope the best for him," Best said. "I want to thank all of the people of Wayne County who have supported me and my wife over the last eight years. God bless the U.S., and God bless Wayne County."