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Watauga County candidates win within small margins

Supporters line the sidewalks and election signs cover the lawn outside the Blowing Rock polling place Tuesday at the Blowing Rock Town Hall. Election Day was

ushered in with cold temperatures and snow flurries. Jeff Eason Photo
Supporters line the sidewalks and election signs cover the lawn outside the Blowing Rock polling place Tuesday at the Blowing Rock Town Hall. Election Day was

ushered in with cold temperatures and snow flurries. Jeff Eason Photo
Published: 10:27 AM, 11/08/2012 Last updated: 11:40 AM, 11/12/2012

Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney congratulated President Barack Obama on winning re-election, in an emotional concession speech.

Romney said he and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan had given everything they had and “left everything on the field. ... I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction.”

But even as presidential results were still incomplete as of presstime Tuesday, local candidates were finding reason to celebrate.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners will remain a conservative board, while welcoming three fresh faces: Perry Yates, John Welch and Billy Kennedy.

Yates, a Republican and president of New River Building Supply, bested Democrat Virginia Roseman, the public relations director for “Horn in the West,” with 13,859 votes to her 12,693, according to unofficial results.

Yates commended Roseman as a good candidate who ran a clean race.

“What I look forward to most is having a bipartisan board,” said Yates, who added
that he hoped the members would be able to lay politics aside and be a productive force for the county.

Democrat John Welch had the most decisive victory, finishing almost 7 percentage points higher than incumbent Vince Gable, the Republican vice chairman. Welch garnered 14,126 votes, while Gable received 12,285 votes, according to unofficial results.

Gable, who was first elected in 2010, said he was OK with the results and felt he had accomplished all he set out to do. He said he thought Welch’s career in the ASU athletic department helped with his visibility.

“It’s hard to beat the university,” Gable said. “That’s a big voting block.”

Welch will move from his current position on the Board of Education directly onto another demanding board in December.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a transition because I worked very hard on the Board of Education,” Welch said.

With only 676 votes separating the candidates of District 3, Democrat Billy Kennedy edged out Republican Tommy Adams with 13,698 votes.

Yates and Welch will receive four-year terms, and Kennedy will serve a two-year term.

Kennedy said he would certainly have preferred to have four years on the board but will be pleased to represent all of the county’s residents.

“I’m glad they had confidence in me, and I hope to live up to their expectations,” Kennedy said.

Board of Education
With no incumbents running, the Board of Education race was wide open this year. Candidates Barbara Kinsey, Brenda Reese and Ron Henries earned their spots with 10,882 votes, 10,800 votes and 10,629 votes, respectively, according to unofficial numbers.

Jay Fenwick was an extremely close fourth, winning 10,527 votes by unofficial counts. Candidates Deborah Greene and Fred Oliver also made strong showings with 7,742 and 6,978 votes, respectively.

Although the race is nonpartisan, the local parties’ activity on behalf of their candidates was substantial. Both Kinsey and Reese are Democrats, while Henries is a Republican.

Kinsey, a former English and Latin teacher, said she enjoyed the campaign, especially the two weeks she spent on the ASU campus. She said she would be putting on her student cap before she officially joins the board in December.

“First, I’ve got to learn the job, so there will be a lot of reading and studying and asking a lot of questions,” she said.

Reese, who is currently the principal at Freedom Trail Elementary in Avery County, said she is excited to have an opportunity to give back to the community. Supporting teachers as the professionals they are will be important, she said.

“I am really proud of the teachers, and I think that’s what makes our school system great,” Reese said.

Henries, who previously served on the school board from 2006-08, said he thought Tuesday’s results roughly mirrored the primary, although he closed up the gap a bit.

Henries stressed that as he moves from campaigning to serving, he will focus not on setting his own particular goals but on dealing with each issue that approaches him.

“If you go in there with an agenda, you’re going to be disappointed,” he said.

Register of deeds
JoAnn Townsend, the current Register of Deeds and the sole candidate for the seat, also was confirmed with Tuesday’s results. Townsend, a Republican, has served in the role since 2004 and will now begin another four-year term.

Unofficial results
Until the canvass on Nov. 16, all local election results are unofficial. At that time, the Board of Elections also will review and add in the 321 provisional ballots filed in Watauga County. Any races that are split by less than 1 percent may request a recount.


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