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Listen to the messages voters shouted

Voters sent some important messages on Tuesday. In fact, the margins show they shouted the messages.
1. Signs don’t vote. Sheriff Tim Daugherty may have had more yards posting his signs than he had people voting for him. We’ve had Sheriff’s Office employees’ families tell us they felt threatened and didn’t dare not support him. Other people have said sheriff’s signs showed up on their property without them ever granting permission. What were they going to do about the trespass, call the Sheriff’s Office? Well, folks, you can burn those signs now.
The sheriff’s race may have been the most blatant example of just how worthless all those stick signs are, but voters told other candidates that signs posted on vacant lots, in cemeteries and in the right-of-way aren’t fooling anyone. I may be biased, but good old newspaper advertising beats stick signs for getting your message out to the voters every time and comes at a better value as well. The results don’t lie.
2. The Democratic Party of Lincoln County is alive and well. And Democrats weren’t about to roll over blindly for Sheriff Daugherty just because he got lucky with his timing as an unknown candidate in 2006.
This message should be sending shock waves through the tiny coven of “party leaders” running things at party headquarters, who’ve been diehard supporters of the sheriff, even when he was under indictment by the Democratic District Attorney.
Unless voters forget soon, and they sometimes do have short memories, expect extreme turnover during the next selection of party leaders in January.
Republicans should be happy about this, even if it seems like the last thing they would want. That’s because two strong and viable parties help keep each other strong. When either party can get any clown elected out of the primary without a November challenge, that party is not tested and its candidates will not be the best choices for the people of this county.
3. As Ronald Reagan famously advised, Republicans should not speak ill of other Republicans. That message was apparently lost on congressional primary contenders Vance Patterson and Scott Keadle. For either of them to pose a real challenge to incumbent Patrick McHenry, they needed to keep McHenry under 40 percent of the vote. That meant that trading votes between them wouldn’t matter as long as McHenry hit the magic number. Barbs flew between the two challengers’ campaigns in recent weeks and McHenry waltzed to victory with more than 60 percent of the vote.
That’s surprising considering how much dislike there seems to be for McHenry in conversations among Republicans. But with no clear choice, most GOP voters went with the known over the unknown. In a primary, a challenger is always best to find winning policy positions that set him apart from the incumbent, and run on his strongest point of distinction without ever having to go negative. These challengers didn’t accomplish that.
4. Voters aren’t angry at all incumbents. Rumor had it that voters wanted incumbents out and Mark Vanek, an Iredell County radio personality, decided he needed to help the cause with a bid to unseat longtime state Sen. Jim Forrester in the Republican primary. But if Forrester was targeted for removal, no one seemed to have told the voters, who instead steam-rolled over Vanek’s smug, self-serving and superficial campaign.
Republican primary voters may, however, have been aware that 2010 could be the year when the party finally takes control of the state Senate. If so, that would put a longsuffering individual like Forrester in a prime position for an expanded leadership role.
Frankly, I wish a candidate of Forrester’s stature had been on the ballot for Congress, but I was more than happy to send him back to Raleigh, as were the substantial majority of primary voters.
5. Maybe districts would be better. The free-for-all of seven candidates vying for two at-large seats is not a good way to pick our county commissioners, but it’s what happens in the absence of districts.
Every candidate was among the top two vote-getters in at least three of the 28 precincts. But the ultimate top two candidates, Carl Robinson Jr. and Cecelia Allran Martin, were only jointly the top two in two precincts.
We are headed for a runoff, but should those two emerge victorious from that process, we would have a county board in which three of the five commissioners live west of Lincolnton, even though more than half of the county’s population lives east of Lincolnton.
Perhaps the easterners who are using the broken form of districting employed by both the School Board and Lincolnton City Council — representation districts that are not balanced by population — as a misleading example in their argument against all districting, should consider the results.
6. Voters were not deceived. Coming back to the sheriff’s race, the incumbent took the gutsy but not especially honest tactic of saying the news media had told lies about him.
That was his answer when allegations against him first appeared on the Internet last year. I asked him which item was a lie and never got a straight answer from him.
Following the legal maneuvering in February that resulted in the charges he faced being dismissed, possibly just temporarily, I wrote an editorial urging voters to “be not deceived” by the rhetoric I expected to hear from the sheriff’s camp. The rhetoric did appear, especially as political websites saw a furious debate over the race.
As I walked into the Citizens Center to cover the first returns Tuesday evening, a Daugherty supporter waving a sign heckled me and shouted his prediction that my newspaper would be closing soon — a ridiculous claim they’ve been incorporating in their pitch for some time.
Well, we’re still here despite the phony statements and a hollow boycott of the newspaper that Daugherty supporters were announcing online. The people of Lincoln County have not been deceived. And for that, I am very thankful.

Frank Taylor is managing editor of the Lincoln Times-News.

by Frank Taylor

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