LOOKING BACK AT 2012: Hard-fought election ends in conservative majority

Jan. 05, 2013 @ 05:00 AM


Editor's note: In the fifth and final installment of The Herald's countdown of the top stories of 2012, local elections shape the  future of Lee County.

SANFORD — A contentious presidential election trickled down locally, with several contested Lee County races making the year's election the top story of 2012. 

With the addition of Republican Kirk Smith, the Lee County Board of Commissioners gained a conservative majority despite the top vote-getters — Amy Dalrymple and Ricky Frazier — being Democrats. 

Dalrymple, Frazier and Smith defeated Republicans Max Dolan and Frank Del Palazzo and unaffiliated candidate Ron Hewett for the three at-large district seats on the commission. 

All three of the new commissioners vowed to serve all the residents of Lee County, but they presented different approaches on education, economic incentives and scope of government.  

The Republicans wasted little time during the first commissioners' meeting tackling a score of issues, with the intentions of lowering the property tax rate, revamping intergovernmental agreements and restructuring the Lee County Economic Development Corporation, among other items. 

Former Lee County Commissioner Chairman Linda Shook announced her resignation last month from the board, citing a business-oriented move to Nevada, and 2008 commissioner candidate Andre Knecht is scheduled to be sworn in Monday. 

The election featured a number of noteworthy elements, including the first unaffiliated commissioner candidate in Hewett; a set of conservative pledges concerning the candidates' actions, signed by all three Republican hopefuls, called the Commissioners' Covenant with the Citizens of Lee County; and the defeat of former Commissioner Larry "Doc" Oldham in the Republican primary.

N.C. Rep. Mike Stone (R-Lee) won re-election against former local school board member Bill Tatum; former Chatham County Board of Education member Deb McManus won her seat for N.C. House District 54, representing Chatham and Lee counties, and Ronald Rabin was elected as Lee County's state senator. 

It's also the first time conservatives have gained simultaneous control of the North Carolina Governor's Mansion and the General Assembly in recent times.