Orange Soil And Water Write-Ins Show Lighter Side Of 2014 Election

In the November 4 election, Chris Hogan and Morris Shambley ran for the two open seats to serve on the Board of Supervisors for Orange County’s Soil and Water Conservation District.

Both men won easily, garnering 33,395 and 32,108 votes respectively. But nearly 900 Orange County voters took advantage of the write-in option on the ballot to add a bit of levity at the end of a long and grueling mid-term campaign season.

Some notable names:

-UNC athletes P.J. Hairston, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson

-Deborah Crowder and Jan Boxill, both of whom were implicated in the Wainstein Report on academic fraud at UNC

-elected officials Damon Seils, Lee Storrow and Earl McKee

-former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards

-celebrities Eric Clapton, Ted Nugent, Vince McMahon and Hunter S Thompson

-two votes each for WCHL’s Morning Show host Ron Stutts and Chapelboro columnist Jeff Danner

-two for fictional Game of Thrones character Eddard Stark.

The majority of the write-ins were presumably for friends or family members. A few voters seemingly got confused, writing in the names of candidates running in Wake County.

You can read the full list here.

How Turnout (And Obama) Mattered In 2014

Another national election came and went last week, and when all was said and done, it was a very good night for Republicans across the country – better even than the pollsters had predicted.

Why did Republican candidates do so well across the board? And why did they outperform the pundits’ predictions?

Looking back, Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says pollsters overestimated Democratic turnout – partly because they’d underestimated Democratic turnout in 2012 and didn’t want to make the same error twice. PPP surveyed voters who’d voted in at least two of the last three national elections (2008, 2010, and 2012) – but that meant they surveyed some voters who’d only voted in presidential years, and Jensen says it’s becoming apparent that presidential elections and midterm elections simply draw two different pools of voters.

Still, PPP outperformed most other national polling outlets – and pollsters in general did accurately predict the winners of nearly all the Senate races. The one exception, as it happened, was North Carolina: most polls had Kay Hagan leading by a point or two, but Thom Tillis ended up winning by the same margin.

Jensen says there’s an explanation for that too. The 2014 election wasn’t as much of a ‘referendum on Obama’ as some believed – most voters actually based their votes on other factors, like the qualities of the individual candidates themselves – but voters who were undecided at the last minute did end up basing their votes on their opinion of the President, and the vast majority of those voters disapproved of him. (According to Jensen, Obama’s approval rating was only 10 percent among last-minute undecideds in the Hagan-Tillis race – and that difference alone was enough to turn a 1-point Hagan lead into a 2-point Tillis win.)

Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck about the 2014 election – and the art of polling.


Meanwhile, with the 2014 election in the books, the 2016 campaign has already begun.

Last week, conservative commentator Ben Carson became the first to officially declare his candidacy for president, and many more are sure to follow.

What can we expect to see in 2016? Will Democrats be able to recover from their big losses this year?

Jensen says yes – up to a point. Senate terms are six years long, so the Senate seats up for grabs in 2016 will be the same seats that were up for grabs in 2010. That was, of course, a great year for Republicans – which means the GOP will be on the defensive in 2016, just as the Democrats were in 2014 (having to defend all the seats they narrowly won in 2008). Republicans will have to defend six seats in states that Barack Obama won twice: Democratic-leaning Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and swing states Ohio, New Hampshire and Florida. (Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire appears safe, but the other five Senators could be vulnerable.)

Which means Democrats have a good chance of regaining some Senate seats in 2016 (though there are some vulnerable Democratic incumbents as well, like Michael Bennet in Colorado and Harry Reid in Nevada). The race for control of the House, however, may be a different story: because of how district lines are drawn across the country, very few Congressional seats are actually competitive. (Jensen says only 9 percent of Congressional races this year were decided by a margin of less than 10 percent.) So unless 2016 sees a major shift in the electorate – not impossible, but unlikely – Jensen says the balance of power in the House isn’t likely to change much.

As for the presidential election? Jensen says PPP’s early polls suggest Ben Carson is actually one of Republican voters’ top four choices for the GOP nomination, despite (or because of?) his never having held political office.

Jensen spoke with Aaron Keck about what to expect in 2016.


PPP will release more data from its 2016 surveys later this week. Visit this link for a discussion of the 2016 Senate picture.

Dems Gain In NCGA, But GOP Keeps Supermajority

As expected, the Democratic Party gained some seats in the North Carolina General Assembly in Tuesday’s election – but not enough to overcome the GOP’s veto-proof majority in either house.

It was a foregone conclusion that Republicans would retain their majorities in the State House and Senate; the GOP entered Tuesday’s election with a 77-43 advantage in the House and a 33-17 edge in the Senate, and very few of those 170 total districts were competitive in this cycle. (Many candidates ran unopposed.) But Democrats were hoping to gain enough seats to end the Republican veto-proof “supermajority”: as long as the GOP holds more than 60 percent of the seats in both houses, a united party can override any gubernatorial veto.

According to the State Board of Elections, Democrats did pick up three net seats in the House to cut the GOP’s advantage to 74-46 – but they needed at least three more gains to overcome the supermajority. In the Senate, Democrats actually dropped one seat, giving Republicans a 34-16 edge.

2014 Election: GOP Wins Big Nationwide

Republicans have seized control of the Senate and strengthened their hold on the House in a wave of Election Day victories.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell defeated his Democratic challenger in Kentucky, putting him in position to become the new Senate majority leader.

Republicans picked up Senate seats in seven states.

And Republicans are on track in the House to meet or exceed the 246 seats they held during President Harry Truman’s administration more than 60 years ago.

Republicans also swept governor’s races across the country, scoring upsets in Democratic bastions like Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.

The Democrats’ only significant victory came in Pennsylvania, where businessman Tom Wolf ousted GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.

Three contests remain too close to call: Alaska, Colorado and Connecticut.

House Speaker John Boehner is telling Republicans that despite victories in the House and Senate, it’s “not a time for celebration.”

Boehner says instead, it’s time for government to start “implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country.” He says those challenges begin with what he calls a “still-struggling economy.”

Most voters would agree with that. Exit polls showed voters don’t have much trust in government, feel the nation is off on the wrong track and believe life will be worse for the next generation.

And above all, voters surveyed while leaving the polls say they’re worried about the economy. People who say their own financial situation grew worse in the past two years voted for Republican congressional candidates by a 2-1 margin.

Burroughs To Join Orange County Board of Commissioners

Democrat Mia Burroughs becomes the newest member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners after beating Republican Gary Kahn with 76 percent of the vote.

Burroughs won with 37,184 votes, while Kahn took in 11,694.
Burroughs has served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board since 2007, but she says now she’s ready to dig into countywide issues.
Burroughs will represent District 1, covering Chapel Hill and Carrboro. She’ll join Earl McKee and Barry Jacobs who won re-election to the District 2 and At Large seats on the board. They were each running unopposed.
There were no surprises in the majority of the local races on the ballot Tuesday, as most were decided in the May Democratic Primary.
Mark Chilton was elected Register of Deeds with 40,000 votes. After beating incumbent Deborah Brooks in the primary, he was running unopposed in the General Election.
Similarly, Charles Blackwood faced no opposition in the race for Orange County Sherriff. He won a second primary in July against challenger David Caldwell.
Blackwood received 43,900 votes in Tuesday’s election. He will replace Lindy Pendergrass, who has served as sheriff since 1982.

Election Day Is Here!

After months of politicking, an endless stream of campaign ads, and more than $100 million in spending – just on the Senate race alone – Election Day 2014 has finally arrived.

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

If you have any issues at the polls, call the (non-partisan) National Election Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA. The UNC Center for Civil Rights is hosting the NEH’s North Carolina call center.

If you don’t know where to go vote, find your polling place here. There are 44 precincts in Orange County.

Once you know your precinct, visit this link for a sample ballot.

If you have questions about voting, visit this page of FAQs from the NC Board of Elections. (Remember you do not need a photo ID to vote this year – but you will need one in 2016. Precinct workers will ask if you have an ID, just to make sure you’re ready for the next election cycle.)

Visit on Election Night for the latest returns as they come in. WCHL will host live election coverage on Tuesday night after the Evening News.

Election Day Is One Big Toss-Up

Election Day is upon us, and if the pollsters are to be believed, races are extremely tight all across the nation.

Republicans are going to pick up some seats in the U.S. Senate, but it’s still unclear how many: most pollsters say the GOP is likely going to regain control of the Senate from Democrats, but that’s far from a sure thing. The latest surveys from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling show neck-and-neck races for Senate seats in Georgia, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Iowa – and those are only some of the key seats up for grabs.

Read the full report from PPP.

And in North Carolina, incumbent Senator Kay Hagan appears to be leading her challenger, Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis – but only by a very narrow margin.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen about what to expect when the final numbers come in.


Tune in to WCHL after the Tuesday Evening News for live Election Night coverage; Tom Jensen will be among our guest analysts. And visit for all the election returns as they come in after the polls close Tuesday night.

Early Voting Turnout Way Up From 2010

The early voting period ended on Saturday, with turnout in Orange County significantly higher than in the last midterm in 2010.

After a spike in turnout on the last two days, when all was said and done, a total of 23,195 Orange County residents cast early ballots this year. To put that into perspective: in the last midterm four years ago, about 16,500 voters cast early ballots – and that was when the early voting period was significantly longer.

Saturday saw the highest daily turnout, with 3256 voters casting ballots – including nearly a thousand at the Seymour Center alone. Bad weather often has a negative effect on turnout, but the rain held off for most of the day on Saturday.

Local political expert Gerry Cohen reported on Facebook that turnout was up across the state too: statewide, there was a 25 percent increase in Democratic turnout, a 5 percent increase in Republican turnout, and a 45 percent increase in turnout among Libertarians and unaffiliated voters. And there was also a big spike in turnout among African-American voters: up about 45 percent from 2010.

See a full breakdown of early voting numbers in Orange County.

Election Day itself is Tuesday, November 4.

BoCC Candidates Talk Budgets And School Repairs

Budgeting and education are two of the top issues in the race for a District 1 seat, as Republican Gary Kahn and Democrat Mia Burroughs are vying to represent Chapel Hill and Carrboro on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Burroughs is a long-time member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School board. She says addressing the county’s growing poverty problem would be one of her main priorities if elected. Kahn says he’d look to tighten up the county budget wherever possible.

Both school districts are facing major renovations to repair aging facilities, at a time when state funding for education is being cut. County leaders are eyeing a possible bond referendum to pay for the repairs, a move Burroughs says she’d support. By contrast, Kahn says he thinks it’s up to the school systems to fund the renovations.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck hosted a live forum for the candidates. You can listen to the full forum here.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The District 1 race is the only contested Orange County seat this election. Though Board of Commissioners Chair Barry Jacobs and District 2 representative Earl McKee are up for re-election, they are not facing any challengers.

Early voting is underway now until 1 pm Saturday. Election Day is November 4.

Early Voting Turnout Still High In OC

Only three days remain for early voting this year, and turnout at the polls is still consistently high in Orange County.

On Tuesday, Day 5 of the early voting period, 2433 Orange County residents cast their ballots – almost exactly the same as Monday’s total. Through the first five days, 11,591 Orange County residents have cast early ballots – putting Orange County on track to end with about 21,000 early votes cast, if the trends hold.

See a complete day-by-day breakdown of votes cast by location.

To put that into perspective: in the last midterm, in 2010, a total of 16,500 Orange County residents cast early ballots.

Early voting continues through Saturday at five locations in Orange County: at the Board of Elections office in Hillsborough; at Master’s Garden Preschool, also in Hillsborough; at the Seymour Center on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill; at NC Hillel in downtown Chapel Hill, on Cameron Avenue just off campus; and at Carrboro Town Hall on Main Street.

For a full list of locations and hours of operation, click here.

Election Day itself is Tuesday, November 4.