By Becky Johnson
Voters gave their seal of approval to the current Haywood County commissioners, returning all three sitting commissioners to their seats.
Commissioners Mike Sorrells, Kirk Kirkpatrick and Bill Upton — all three Democrats — won re-election.
The trio is part of the longest reigning board of county commissioners with less turnover than any set of county commissioners in recent history.
“The vote total shows people have confidence in what we are doing with the county,” Kirkpatrick said, who appears to be the only county commissioner in the past century to be elected four consecutive times.
Kirkpatrick is going into his fourth term, Upton into this third term, Sorrells into his second. The other two commissioners on the board, Mark Swanger and Kevin Ensley, are serving their third terms.
Sorrells said he was pleased the team could continue.
“We will continue to work to make Haywood County a better place to live,” Sorrells said.
Roger Hannah of Maggie Valley said the current commissioners have done a good job.
“Yup, that’s why I voted for them again,” Hannah said in an exit poll interview. “I’d have voted against them if they hadn’t.”
Support of the sitting commissioners wasn’t limited to party Democrats. Dave Blevins, a Waynesville businessman and self-identified conservative, voted to return the three current commissioners to office.
“I think they did a good job guiding us through the recession. They had to decide what to cut, and how much without cutting the service for those who are most needy,” Blevins said.
Republican challenger Denny King made an admirable showing, however. It was his third time on the ballot, and he has gained momentum each time. King acknowledged going into the race that Haywood is a tough county for Republicans when it comes to local seats.
King came within 200 votes of landing a seat. He got to the 9,000-vote range — the same range as the three sitting commissioners. He clearly held his own.
“We had really good supporters and they worked very hard. I just wish we could have gotten it over the goal line,” King said.
King said he was undecided on whether to ask for a recount, although supporters were urging him to late Tuesday night.
Dick and Jane Young of Waynesville said they voted for King when stopped for an exit poll interview on Election Day. King’s message that the current commissioners have not been frugal enough and have spent too liberally resonated with them.
It’s no surprise a Libertarian on the ballot for commissioner came in last. But Windy McKinney did better than any Libertarian candidate in history. McKinney clocked in with 4,882 votes — out of 19,000 people who voted in Haywood this election. Libertarians are just 1 percent of registered voters in Haywood, but McKinney was supported by 25 percent of those voting in this election.
Despite coming from a non-mainstream party, McKinney’s relatively strong showing is due in part to Republican commissioner candidates bringing her into their fold and publicly supporting her as a candidate.
Voters could pick up to three candidates in the Haywood commissioner race, but with only two Republicans on the ballot, conservative voters had an extra vote to toss around, and many threw it to McKinney, who had been embraced by some elements of the Republican Party, including the two Republican commissioner candidates on the ballot
Haywood County Commissioner
Kirk Kirkpatrick* (D)9,586
Michael Sorrells* (D)9,345
Bill Upton* (D9,232
Denny King (R)9,068
Philip Wight (R)7,650
Windy McKinney (L) 4,882