Michele Presnell, a Yancey County Commissioner, stole the show in an upset victory over Rapp, a former college administrator. The N.C. House district is comprised of Madison, Yancey and Haywood counties.
The upset was even a surprise to Presnell herself.
“I’m overwhelmed and very humbled,” Presnell said. “No, I wasn’t expecting it. By all means, Ray Rapp has been in there for 10 years.”
Rapp was pummeled in recent weeks by attack ads on TV and a litany of campaign fliers. The tactic replicated a successful strategy in 2010 that led Republicans to take the majority in the state legislature.
“There was a significant amount of money put in by the Republicans in Raleigh to defeat me,” Rapp said. “One thing I stayed away from that I feel good about was I didn’t go negative in this campaign.”
However, Rapp’s success as a politician for nearly a decade representing Western North Carolina in Raleigh was based on his ability to also pick up votes of many rural Republicans, something Presnell had to overcome to steal the day.
For example, Janey Laurain, a Republican voter from Maggie Valley, broke what would otherwise have been a straight-Republican ticket to vote for Rapp. As the president of a state Grandparents Rights organization, Rapp met with her in Raleigh and displayed genuine interest and support whenever she reached out to him.
“You call him and he always answered your calls,” Laurin said.
Rapp also was a victim of redistricting, which redrew voting lines following the 2010 census. The new district had fewer Democrats than before.
N.C. House District 118
Total 17,699 (47.4%) 18,646 (51.3%)
Haywood 7,873 (46.4%) 9,085 (53.6%)
Madison 5,346 (53.5%) 4,647 (46.5%)
Yancey 4,480 (48%) 4,914 (52%)
This seat includes Madison, Yancey and half of Haywood County (including Maggie Valley, Canton, Clyde, Bethel, Cruso, Crabtree and Fines Creek).