• Voters in Cherokee County, like at the L&N Depot in Murphy, already were turning out en masse early Tuesday morning for this year’s midterm election. Photo by BEN KATZ
    Voters in Cherokee County, like at the L&N Depot in Murphy, already were turning out en masse early Tuesday morning for this year’s midterm election. Photo by BEN KATZ

2018 General Election results

    Re-elected as Cherokee County commissioner, Cal Stiles of Andrews reveled in a dominant victory against Gary James for the District 1 seat.
    “I just appreciate the confidence that the voters have shown in the tally tonight,” Stiles said. “I had folks all over the county praying for me in this election. I’m looking forward to serving four more years as the citizens’ commissioner.”
    When the early votes were released, Stiles took a strong lead with a 72.5 percent vote and a 3,783 ballot count. His hold in the elections didn’t waver as the 16 precincts reported their votes.
    The race ended with Stiles taking 72.63 percent of the votes with 7,674. James received 27.37 percent of the votes with 2,892.
    The Town of Andrews, where both candidates reside, voted in favor of Stiles, 978-485. Stiles has faced criticism during his political career for not winning his own district.
    Now with four more years as commissioner, Stiles said his top priorities include establishing an animal control officer and expanding broadband throughout the county.
    Stiles already has asked the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners to appoint a three-person committee to take charge of the broadband initiative. He said $10 million is available to Tier 1 counties for broadband grant money.
    The other four sitting commissioners openly gave their full support and funding to James. Returning to his seat, Stiles said he expects no difference while working with the other commissioners.
    “Hopefully they can get over it and move on,” Stiles said. “They made that choice, so I worked hard and had a lot of supporters working with me.”
    Although the backing of the commissioners didn’t help James win, he said it was a wonderful gesture on their part.
    “I’m very appreciative of everybody that supported me, especially for the four commissioners stepping out on a limb and supporting a Democrat,” James said. “It’s harder to be a Democrat in Cherokee County.”
    James said he has no plans to run in the 2019 Andrews Board of Aldermen elections.
    “I want to rest and enjoy some time with my wife,” he said. “No more adventures.”

School board
    Andrews’ Tim Coffey was unseated as the at-large member of the county Board of Education by Republican challenger and political newcomer Keesha Curtis of Wolf Creek.
    Curtis got 65 percent of the ballots with 6,937 votes, while Coffey managed 3,686 (35 percent).
    “It took me 54 years, but I am finally out of Cherokee County Schools,” Coffey said with a laugh.
    Curtis said she was humbled by the amount of support from the community.
    “It feels good to know they have the trust in me to do right by the students of this county,” Curtis said. “I have worked hard and tried to listen to people during this campaign. As long as we keep kids No. 1, we will go far with this board and this superintendent.”
    Curtis spent the beginning of the evening with friends and family, then spoke to the voters on WKRK radio.
    Coffey he was not bitter about the change in school board races to partisanship after his victory in 2014. In those four years, the entire school board has been turned Republican.
    “It is what it is, and those are the rules now,” Coffey said, adding this is likely his last political run.
    Several Democrats declined to run in partisan races in the last two elections, but Coffey signed up at the last minute to run for another term.
    “I think Keesha is going to do a terrific job,” Coffey said. “She is very bright and a quick study. We have a lot of issues facing our schools right now and I hope people get behind this new board.”
    Curtis said securing all the schools with school resource officers is one of her first priorities after joining the board.
    Three other Republicans will join the school board for the first time, including Jeff Martin, Joe Wood and Mark Patterson.
    Wood and Patterson were unopposed in this election in District 3, though Wood received nearly 1,000 more votes than Patterson, who recently resigned from the Cherokee County Detention Center after a list of allegations at the jail piled up in recent months.
    Martin received by far the most votes of the unopposed school board candidates, raking in 8,845, almost 2,000 more than Wood.

Other results
    Judge Kristina Earwood earned a third term on the district court bench with a solid victory (64 percent) over Andrews town attorney Leo Phillips.
    U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows earned re-election to Congress in District 11 with 59 percent of the vote, besting Democratic challenger Phillip Price and Libertarian Clifton Ingram.
    N.C. Sen. Jim Davis (60 percent) topped Bobby Kuppers to earn another term, while N.C. Rep. Kevin Corbin (73 percent) cruised to his second term in the state House.

Early voting

   Election Day arrived Tuesday, but many folks in Cherokee County already had voting in their rear-view mirror by then.
    There were 5,138 early votes cast before Tuesday’s election began, a 54 percent increase over the last midterm election in 2014.
    Those numbers were surprising, given the lack of local races that were contested.
Eddie Allen, chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Elections, said the county elections office was making progress a year after being warned by the state that there were too many dead people still on the voting rolls.
    “It takes time to purge some of these folks off, because we can’t take anyone off without proof from the family that they are deceased,” Allen said. “But we have improved. It is not a short process.”
    New officials will likely be sworn in Monday, Dec. 3, since Dec. 1 is on the weekend.