A week has passed since Election Day and the conclusion of the 2022 midterms, which saw Democrats sweep contested seats across Chatham County.
Absentee and provisional ballots are still being tabulated as Thursday’s canvass approaches, but many seats in the county saw Democratic victories by wide margins after another year that saw Chatham County with the highest voter turnout in the state — with 65% of registered voters, or close to 40,000 individuals, participating in the electoral process.
The News + Record spoke with Chatham candidates and party officials to get a sense of what the elections looked like and what lessons there are to be taken from this year’s midterms. Here’s a breakdown of what happened, and what they’re saying:
Republicans performed well across the state in this year’s midterm election, gaining enough seats for a supermajority in the state Senate to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto — but in Chatham, both the county’s legislative seats stayed blue, with Democrat incumbents claiming clear wins.
In the race to represent District 20 in the N.C. Senate, incumbent Sen. Natalie Murdock won the seat with 57.58% of the vote in the county, compared to her opponent Alvin Reed’s 42.42%. With 22,238 votes across Chatham’s 16 precincts, Murdock had 5,855 more ballots cast in her favor than Reed. A portion of Durham County is included in District 20, meaning with the votes from Chatham’s neighbor, Murdock’s victory was by a wide margin — close to 73% of the total vote.
Murdock spoke with the News + Record on Tuesday between attending Election Night watch parties in Chatham County and in Raleigh, and thanked voters and volunteers who assisted at the polls.
“First and foremost, I just want to thank the people of Chatham County, even those that did and did not support me, I just want Chatham County to give themselves a hand,” she said.
“They just had such strong turnout,” she continued. “To be number one in the state through early vote, to exceed 40% of the vote — it is a phenomenal model that we need to replicate across the state. And it shows that people in Chatham County are very invested in their future and their communities because we all should be voting and so I was just really, really excited that that vote was so strong.”
Reed, her challenger, expressed disappointment in the results, and particularly that Democrats swept contested seats across the county. But the retired software writer also said he was pleased he had the opportunity to disseminate ideas from his book “The Theory of Biblical Patterns,” which he claims proves that God wrote the Bible.
“That’s why I ran, for an opportunity to talk to people,” Reed said. “And for me, it wasn’t so much a vote. It was how many souls I saved. And I think I saved a few souls.”
In Chatham County, incumbent Rep. Robert Reives II won 56.99% of the vote to keep his District 54 seat in the N.C. House of Representatives. His Republican challenger and former Chatham Commissioner Walter Petty gained 43.01% of the vote; Chatham voters cast 5,434 more ballots for Reives than for Petty.
District 54 now encompasses part of Randolph County, and Petty gained the majority of the vote among Randolph voters, with around 74% of ballots in his favor. But across the district, Reives maintained a majority with 55% of the vote.
Reives, who serves as House Minority Leader, expressed gratitude to voters in securing the seat to represent District 54 again, saying he felt like the community responded overwhelmingly in a manner that reflects what they want out of their public servants.
“What I hoped, whether I won or lost, is that people saw what the power of community actually is,” he said. “The district did not get severely gerrymandered, as gerrymandered as it could have been, because the community made it clear that’s not what they wanted through their participation in the redistricting process.”
The race for the N.C. House in Chatham had been, at times, eclipsed by concerns about mailers sent to voters during the campaign season, with both candidates claiming they contained personal and inappropriate attacks. Reives said he doesn’t believe there’s a place for such tactics in politics, and he felt like many Chatham voters did not put stock into the attack ads in this race.
“If you’re really a public servant, you know your people,” he said. “And these are people that you go to the grocery store with, you go to church with, you’re in civic organizations with. And so when they [elections] start getting very personal, that’s just something that is sad that that’s where politics has gotten, but I was very thankful that the community as a whole, consistently, whether they would vote for me or not, understood that that’s not who I was and I appreciated that.”
Petty did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
Chatham will have a new congressional representative, though it isn’t the person the majority of voters in the county wanted.
Republican incumbent Richard Hudson won the Dist. 9 U.S. House of Representatives seat despite 56.68% of Chatham County voting for his opponent, Ben Clark. Votes were tallied from nine counties in N.C., with Hudson gaining 56.70% of the total vote. Hudson previously represented Dist. 8, but after redistricting following the 2020 census, he decided to run for the Dist. 9 seat.
“Renee and I appreciate the outpouring of support throughout this campaign and I am honored for the opportunity to continue serving our community,” Hudson said in a statement. “I now look forward to following through on our ‘Commitment to America’ to work towards an economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future built on freedom, and a government that’s accountable.”
Clark gave a statement after his loss, thanking voters for their support throughout his campaign.
“While we came up short in our quest to remove an election denier from Congress, I was heartened by many things that happened on election night, both in N.C. and around the country,” he said. “It’s been a good 10-year run; and I’m still holding out hope for Medicaid Expansion in the remaining 6 weeks. After that, I’ll be looking for new and different ways to serve my community.”
Incumbent Sheriff Mike Roberson easily won re-election, defeating Republican challenger Marcus Globuschutz, a Siler City resident who works as a probation/parole officer in Randolph County.
Roberson was appointed to the office in 2016 after serving in a variety of law enforcement positions in Chatham, then re-elected in 2018 (he ran unopposed). He took 62.15% of the ballots (24,036 votes to Globuschutz’s 14,636) this time around to win a second full four-year term. In doing so, he beat back a candidate who’d lambasted his leadership and management of the sheriff’s office on Facebook and other social media platforms.
“I want to tell you this, from my perspective, 337 days ago we filed for re-election,” Roberson told supporters at Democrat Party headquarters in Pittsboro last Tuesday night. “So that’s a long time to go through that. And I’ll be honest with you, some days were longer than others. I’ve even had a countdown clock to remind us throughout our tough days, how many more days we had to go to keep this all in perspective of where we are.
“We started this campaign on a positive path,” he continued. “And we ended it on a positive path. And I’m happy about that. I will be honest with you, I wrote some responses that I deleted. But I do think it’s important if we’re going to make government something that can be trusted, that we have to be trustworthy. And so I think in doing that, we have to be mindful of how we treat others, even when you’re not being treated well yourself.”
Roberson thanked his staff at the Sheriff’s Office for their work and for “pull(ing) through this” during a campaign in which Globuschutz made distorted claims and cited accusations about Roberson from unnamed sources.
“(They) are criticized about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” Roberson said of his staff. “They keep doing the job that you’re doing. They’re doing an awesome job. This is not a political statement; you have the best staff in the state of North Carolina working for you right now. And I mean that and I’m very proud of every one of them.”
In a statement released election evening, Globuschutz said, “The people of Chatham County have spoken. This election has been such a humbling experience for me and I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support and the thousands of votes I received. I have met so many great people throughout this county as I campaigned and I’m still proud to call Chatham County home. I would like to congratulate Sheriff Roberson and wish the Chatham County Sheriff’s and its employees the best.”
Chatham Democrats also swept the races for Chatham Board of Commissioners. David Delaney (Dist. 3), Katie Kenlan (Dist. 4) and Franklin Gomez Flores (Dist. 5) each defeated Republican candidates with a 12-point margin receiving 56% of the vote in each race.
Chatham largely voted straight ticket in the commissioners races, which is evident by the similar margin in all three races. A full breakdown of the race, including responses from candidates can be found in this week’s edition.
The Chatham school board will look very familiar next term with all three incumbents — Del Turner, Jane Allen Wilson and Gary Leonard — winning their reelection campaigns.
Turner’s Dist. 3 race with challenger Jessica Winger remains close with just a 1.35-point margin. Results for the race are still yet to be finalized until Thurday’s canvass. If the margin between the candidates narrows to 1% or less then Winger could call for a recount.
In Dist. 5, Gary Leonard defeated challenger Tim Moore by a 15-point margin, earning 57% of the vote.
Dist. 4 board member Jane Allen Wilson ran uncontested in her race. If the results hold, the trio will enter their third term on the school board together. Leonard and Turner have both been on the board since 2010, with Wilson joining in 2014. They each said they hope to build on the progress they’ve made for the school district. For a full analysis of the school board election including candidate statements, see this week’s edition.
Bill DeLano, first vice chair of the Chatham Democratic Party, said the party was pleasantly surprised by the election results.
“We didn’t take any race for granted and we focused our efforts accordingly,” he said.
In considering the issues or approaches the party took that might have served them well in securing victories across multiple races, DeLano said the party chose to stand for “civility, positivity and inclusion” and focus on needs in Chatham County.
“There are those who would rather portray an ‘us versus them’ view of the world. Our Chatham community is thriving because we largely reject that premise,” DeLano said. “Our friends, co-workers and people we encounter may vote differently but in our day-to-day lives, we are still neighbors.”
When looking to the future, DeLano said the party aims to continue engaging voters in Siler City, Bonlee, Goldston, Bear Creek and Moncure.
“One Chatham needs to be more than a slogan and we took that message to heart,” he said.
DeLano also applauded Chatham’s record high voter turnout, as did the Chatham County Republican Party.
In an email to the News + Record, the Chatham GOP noted the impact of early voting in expanding the options for registered voters to partake in the electoral process.
“More voters are deciding to vote early rather than wait for Election Day. This has positive effects: it makes it easier to vote, and it removes the constraint of only being able to vote on Tuesday, Election Day,” the Chatham GOP said in a statement to the News + Record.
But the Republican Party also said it believes the early voting period should be limited to five or six days in advance of Election Day because they felt voters who participated on the first day of early voting “did not have as much information available to them” as compared to voters who participated on Election Day.
The GOP congratulated each winner of local races in the county, as well as voters for exercising their civic duty, saying their focus remains on the county and several key matters.
“This election brought these issues into clear focus, and we will continue to work to provide a voice for citizens who want reasonable growth, improved rural broadband service, clean water, clean air, and a school system that graduates students who can read, write, and learn new skills for jobs that are not yet clearly defined in our growing 21st Century economy,” the party said.
GOP-supported candidates were defeated by margins of around 56-44 in most races. The Chatham GOP said it felt the margins can be attributed to a liberal-conservative split in the county, and said at-large voting allowed a select group of suburban precincts to sway the political leaning of the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education elections.
“Something is wrong when a candidate may win a geographical District but may not win the election,” the party said. “It should be one person, one vote, candidate and voters all living in the same district.”
The Republican Party said it will study the process of moving from at-large to single member districts and vowed to change “gerrymandered Districts for Board of Commissioners and Board of Education.”
“Precincts should be completely within a District,” the Republican Party said. “Each District should be simple geometric shapes, not convoluted lines.”
Chatham County Board of Commissioners appointed a task force to examine the county’s voting methods in 2018. The Board of Commissioners Election Method Task Force looked into district-only voting as the Republican Party suggested, and found that the method would not make a substantial impact on election outcomes. The task force was formed to determine whether to increase the number of commissioners and whether to change the method by which commissioners are elected. The work of the task force occurred when the BOC had a 3-3 partisan split. The task force itself was comprised of three Democrats, three Republicans and three Unaffiliated voters.
Sarah D’Amato was a co-vice chairperson on the task force.
“The research, the statistics, the public comment, etc., all show that the current system we have is the best compromise,” D’Amato told the News + Record Tuesday. “If we change to district-only voting, we will need to redraw the maps — which will happen soon anyways — which will ultimately lead to voting districts different from the ones we know of now.”
Now, with five Democrats on the Board of Commissioners, further research into this methodology appears unlikely. The county also decided not to redistrict for the 2022 elections after the results of the 2020 Census were released. At the time, commissioners felt the timeline was too rushed to adjust district boundaries with adequate public input partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill Horner III, Ben Rappaport, Maydha Devarajan and Taylor Heeden contributed to this story.