Queen slips by Clampitt in House race
Waynesville Democrat Joe Sam Queen beat out Republican candidate Mike Clampitt by a commanding margin to take an open seat in the N.C. House.
Queen, an architect and businessman with a long mountain lineage, carried a district that includes Swain, Jackson and part of Haywood counties — one of the more Democratic leaning areas of Western North Carolina. Queen won in all three counties, including Clampitt’s home turf of Swain.
Queen will be one of only three Democrats from WNC heading to the N.C. House.
Queen, although seizing an open seat this time around, is a state political veteran, serving three terms in the state Senate over a 10-year span. Queen lost his senate seat in 2010, however. This time, he ran for the N.C. House after long-time Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva, announced he would retire after this term, leaving the seat open and up for grabs in a district historically favorable to Democrats.
Queen’s dedication to funding education and other social programs such as health care may have carried him to victory, but achieving his goals when in office could be another story. This will be the first time Queen, in his political tenure, will be part of the legislature’s minority.
When asked how he would be effective in a Republican-dominated state government, he admitted it’d be tough.
“I’ve got to figure that out quite frankly,” Queen said. “It depends on how mean spirited the Republicans are. I’m full of good ideas and I’ll share them.”
Yet, he asserted that his campaign promise of standing up for public schools, community colleges and universities would not waver. Queen formally served as co-chair of the Education Committee while a state senator and said he would like to undo some of the damage he said Republicans had caused through budget cuts.
“I’m really interested in restoring education and our historical commitment to education,” Queen said.
For his first state election, Clampitt, a retired firefighter, still made a decent showing. He earned the votes of many in the community who knew him. Also, many loyal Tea Party Patriots in the district liked his fiscal plans.
Clampitt said he was happy with the tight race and pleased with his supporters showing at the polls.
“It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and really exciting,” Clampitt said. “I have no regrets. I’d do it all again.”
Clampitt was constantly on the go during the race, frequently appearing at events in his own personal fire truck.
He said he will remain politically active and build on what he’s started.
Although Queen’s platform may have helped him win, name recognition couldn’t have hurt when placed alongside Clampitt, who was virtually unknown outside Swain at the outset of campaign season. Queen’s long tenure in WNC, and his family’s history in the area, may have given him the edge.
For 45-year-old Susy Sims from Whittier, casting her ballot for Queen stemmed from those very factors, and what she said was Queen’s dedication to mountain communities.
“I’m voting for Queen because he comes from a good, local family,” Sims said.