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Brunswick voters rush the polls; Democrats defeated

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

See all The Beacon's election coverage here.

STAFF WRITER

More than 50,000 Brunswick County residents voted in this year’s election, with a large number voting early, and Democratic candidates for county seats all lost to Republicans.

Some 50,759 people, or 66.94 percent of registered voters, cast their ballots in Brunswick County in this year’s election.

Poll workers said Tuesday they saw a steady stream of voters throughout the day, although nearly half of those who voted did so at “one-stop” voting sites during the weeks leading up to the election.

“I’ve never seen turnout like this before,” Brunswick County Democratic Chairman Vernon Ward said Tuesday.

Ward attributed the turnout to enthusiasm by young voters and people wanting change.

“It’s the economy and the enthusiasm brought out by [Barack] Obama among the youth voters,” he said. “They really worked hard in the county, knocking on doors to get out the vote. It’s by far the largest turnout we’ve ever had in this county.”

Longtime Democratic activist Barbara Stanley, who spent the afternoon at the Frying Pan voting precinct at the Shallotte Point Volunteer Fire Department, agreed.

“I’ve never seen such a turnout,” she said. “We had 39,000 voters in 2004. We had almost that many for early voting this year. It’s been huge.”

At Democratic headquarters Tuesday night, all eyes were on the apparent victories of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan and gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue.

But when results for county commissioner and school board races started trickling in, candidates and their supporters got nervous.

Republican school board candidates Shirley Babson, Catherine Cooke and Bud Thorsen defeated Tom Simmons, Christy Judah and John Jones, respectively, while county commissioners chairman Bill Sue held off Democratic challenger Randy Rhodes by a narrow margin.

Incumbent commissioner Marty Cooke defeated Democrat Marion Davis, while incumbent Democrats May Moore and Tom Rabon lost to newcomers Charles Warren and Scott Phillips.

The most startling defeat came in the register of deeds race. Democrat Robert J. Robinson has had the seat for the past 28 years and has fended off numerous challengers.

But this year, he faced the toughest competition of his career and lost to Republican challenger Brenda Mercer Clemmons, who spent 14 years in the register of deeds office and the past 12 years in the clerk of courts office.

Tuesday night, Robinson and his supporters left Democratic headquarters upset but not regretting the work they put into the race.

“I’m not ill about it,” Robinson said. “For 28 years, I served the citizens, and I’m proud of that. I’m a little upset about what happened tonight, but for 28 years they voted for me, and I’m grateful for that.”

Sara Drevenak of Bolivia, who worked on the local Obama campaign, said she was happy about the turnout but a little surprised local Democratic candidates didn’t win.

“I think we were hopeful we might do a little better in the local elections,” she said.

See all The Beacon's election coverage here.