Pretty much everyone had something to be upset about after the election on Tuesday night, but, although I didn’t like the outcome of some of the races, it reminded me of one of the reasons I love local politics.
I can’t remember who said this but it was some candidate after winning an election. He said that running in a local race is like playing a sport where it’s not clear how you score, but you know the score is being kept, and it’s only after the game is over that you found out whether you won or lost.
That pretty much describes local elections, which are far different from national elections because in most races no polling is done, and in the races that it is, the polling is often not consistent so it can be more misleading than enlightening.
I’ve also heard some candidates say that even if there were polling they wouldn’t want to see it because they were already working as hard as they could, and if it showed they were behind they would have to try to work even harder, and if it showed they were ahead they might slack off a little and end up losing. Hillary Clinton could probably identify with that.
But in most local races nobody knows how they are doing until the votes start coming in on Tuesday night. Then all the theories on early voting start being passed around. It seems everyone has one.
This year what early voting proved is that Democrats like to vote early a lot more than Republicans. But in the past, early voting has been a good indication of how the race would play out; during the night, as precincts came in, the percentage might change a point or two, but there was never any significant movement between the early voting and the final, but unofficial, results.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday night, so I’m going to have to revise my theory on early voting. I was told that if I had spent more time at the early voting polling places I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that the percentages didn’t hold.
Even after the early voting tallies were posted, I still thought Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes would win. One reason is that how a candidate did in their last race is a good predictor of how they will do in the current race. Barnes had won every race for sheriff for 24 years.
Most people I talk to, Democrat and Republican, think that Barnes has done a great job as sheriff. There haven’t been any recent scandals.
He’s thinner than he was four years ago when he defeated Danny Rogers, but otherwise he seems like the same guy doing the same job in the same way.
So why suddenly did the people of Guilford County decide that they wanted to try out a new sheriff? It’s a good question and I’m going to ask some people who know a lot more about elections than I do and see if I can figure it out. I certainly didn’t see a huge upset coming. But Rogers won and it really wasn’t that close because 5 percent is not a close election.
I was not as surprised that state Sen. Trudy Wade lost, but it was a similar situation. Two years ago Wade defeated Michael Garrett and Tuesday night Garrett narrowly defeated Wade.
Here there were some differences – the big one was the district. Senate District 27 was a very different district than the one they ran in two years ago. In fact, it was so different that Garrett had to move to be eligible to run.
Wade has been such a lightening rod while in the Senate and has gotten such bad press for so long that it may have eroded her support.
But the key to this race, and one that I missed entirely until Garrett won, was that the new district was drawn by the special master hired by three federal court judges to redraw the districts in Guilford County. It was obvious that he had redrawn the districts to be more favorable to Democrats, but it had not occurred to me that the district would be as competitive as it turned out to be. It has much more of Greensboro in it than I thought.
Although in both those races the candidate that I had hoped would win lost, they are still great examples of why I find local political races so interesting. Most of the candidates wait for the results to come in, thinking they are going to win. Even candidates who by any objective standard have no chance of winning, by the time the election has rolled around, and so many people have told them that they are going to vote for them, that they think they are going to win in a landslide, and this has included candidates that wind up with 10 percent of the vote.
But then sometimes those candidates do win. And some candidates who seem to be really good candidates to me turn out to be folks that for some reason I haven’t ascertained are not liked at all by the voters.
I also like the way the precincts are posted when they come in and there is little rhyme or reason to how that happens. Some people know all the precincts and know what it means when G20 comes in and doesn’t affect the percentages. I have to rely on the kindness of strangers to interpret that stuff because I can’t keep the precincts clear in my head.
In the end, we choose the people who will govern us for the next two or four years and then we start doing it all over again.