The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is going to remain exactly like it is now – with five Republicans and four Democrats. However, for much of election night, it sure didn’t look that way.
When the early voting totals were released on Tuesday, Nov. 6, the two Republican commissioners up for reelection to the board – Justin Conrad and Alan Perdue – both found themselves in real jeopardy.
Conrad was down significantly to Democratic contender Tracy Lamothe in the race for the District 3 seat, while Perdue was in a dead heat in his District 2 race with Scott Jones, a Democrat who – before the early vote totals were revealed, at least – was considered a real long shot.
The two Republicans were in for quite a ride as the votes from precincts came in through the night, but both finished on top in the end and reclaimed their seats on the Board of Commissioners for another four years. Conrad got 14,264 votes for 51 percent to Lamothe’s 13,974 votes for 49 percent. Perdue had 12,631 votes for 53 percent to Jones’ 11,015 votes for 47 percent.
Conrad said right after the final votes were in that is was a thrill to win but he could have done without so much excitement.
“I say all the time that boring government is good government and, tonight, I could have used a little more boring government,” said the relieved commissioner.
Conrad said there were times during the evening that it looked a lot like Lamothe would win. He said he was about 1,300 votes behind at one point and it was frustrating because, for a very long time, only nine of 22 precincts in his district had reported. Finally, another nine precinct vote totals were posted.
“It came in all at once and it flipped everything,” he said.
After that he had a slight lead and there were only four precincts left – one that would likely favor him, one that would likely favor Lamothe and two that were toss-ups. Those last two are what assured him victory, he said.
The day before the election, Conrad was out banging on doors until it got dark.
“I’ve knocked on about 100 doors already,” he said about 5 p.m. on election eve, adding that he had probably hit 500 houses in the district during the campaign.
Conrad said that interaction with voters made him feel pretty optimistic about his chances.
“I didn’t have one person tell me that they were unhappy with county government,” he said.
One of the things Lamothe criticized Conrad and the current Board of Commissioners on was school funding. She claimed that the board does not adequately fund the school system, but in reality the Board of Commissioners has been fairly generous in recent years in that regard and, this summer, Conrad proposed the county raise up to $10 million for school security by issuing two-thirds bonds – and the Board of Commissioners approved the move.
The biggest surprise in the commissioners’ races, however, was the near upset of Perdue by Scott Jones – a candidate who didn’t appear to mount much of a campaign and who, a week before the election, declined to talk to the Rhino Times about the race. Jones said at that time that he preferred not to speak with the media about political matters. That was something of a head scratcher since most candidates rarely turn down free publicity days before the election.
Jones did say before the election that he thought he would be able to do as much good for the community not being a commissioner as being one.
In the end, Perdue, like Conrad, squeaked out a victory and Perdue said he was happy about that regardless of the margin.
“To me it’s just an honor to serve the people,” Perdue said. “And that’s what it was before – an opportunity to make changes for the better and reduce taxes.”
Perdue said he thought that, in this election, there were other forces at play besides voters coming in and casting votes for the most qualified candidates. He said in this election, especially, many people seemed to vote with their party regardless of the candidates.
“A lot of things took place along party lines,” he said.
There were three other commissioners on the ballot who also won their seats back: Democratic Commissioners Skip Alston in District 8, Carlvena Foster in District 1 and At-Large Commissioner Kay Cashion. All three managed to pull in 100 percent of the vote since they faced no opposition.
Alston said he had been out campaigning on Tuesday and hitting polling places to drum up support. When asked why he did so, given that he didn’t have an opponent, Alston said: “I had to be sure I got at least one vote.”