“Look at Virginia Foxx: She’s got more votes than all of us combined,” Josh Brannon was telling a film crew from Fusion Media Network during a Democratic watch party at Foothills Brewing brewpub in Winston-Salem on election night. “See what we’re facing?”
Foxx, the six-term Republican incumbent in the 5th Congressional District, would end up racking up 17,083 votes compared to a total of 15,419 for the three other candidates in the Democratic primary.
From the first returns of early voting, Brannon had cornered about 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, while his two opponents split the remainder, and the pattern held as reports from precincts trickled in.
But instead of celebrating an imminent win in his Democratic primary, Brannon was preoccupied with the ominous numbers in the Republican primary, with challenger Pattie Curran getting trounced roughly four to 1 by Foxx.
“I’m a little disappointed that Pattie didn’t get closer to Virginia,” Brannon said. “I think it indicates inertia. Inertia isn’t necessarily a good sign for mine and other races in the fall.”
Around 8:45 p.m., Brannon’s opponent Jim Roberts wasn’t quite ready to concede, noting that about half of the precincts still hadn’t reported. And despite trailing in third place with only half of Brannon’s running vote total — with also-ran Charlie Wallin holding second place — Roberts was in an ebullient mood.
“Whoever the nominee is, I’ll be supporting them,” Roberts said. “Josh, Charlie and myself, we campaigned on our own assets. We put our own positions out there, and we didn’t get into trashing each other. The three of us presented the party with three strong candidates that were interested in the people over corporations.”
Criticizing Foxx for mounting job losses in the 5th District — stretching west from Winston-Salem to Boone and the northwestern corner of the state — since Foxx took office in 2005, Roberts made a case for a populist insurgency.
“Every job that left this shore, an American had it,” Roberts said. “Now, the small towns are crumbling, even some large cities like Philadelphia, Youngstown and Flint. Now, they’re trying to sell it that we need better training. If we need better training, why is it that the Republicans are disassembling the educational system?”
“Thank you,” murmured Brannon, who hovered over his shoulder.
They made a big of an odd couple — Brannon, a youngish and urbane software programmer from the Boone area, and Roberts, a retired pest-control company president from Pilot Mountain. But they had the same idea: Roberts invited his two opponents to watch the returns together at the Forsyth County Republican Party headquarters on Burke street, but Brannon prevailed upon him to ditch the harsh fluorescent lights for the gentle shadows and cheerful clank of beer glasses in the brewpub.
On the Republican side, Pattie Curran said she wasn’t disappointed despite her lopsided loss of 32 percent to 68 percent to Virginia Foxx.
“Tomorrow we’re gonna wake up and keep fighting for conservative ideas,” said Curran, a home-schooling mom from Kernersville who came to prominence by challenging former Democratic US Sen. Kay Hagan for her support of the Affordable Care Act.
“We the people — we’re gonna be standing up and fighting for conservative principles,” Curran said. “We knew it was uphill. Incumbents have a 93 percent success rate, like in the Soviet Union. My total door-knock count is 11,794. I’m not done fighting. I want to fight for the republic. I want to fight for the republic. We’ll keep holding them accountable, keep bringing conservative petitions to DC.”
Curran said she’ll probably run again in two years.
Foxx said in an emailed statement that the primary election results reflected a decisive endorsement by voters of her “record of fighting for limited government, conservative values and strong nation security.”
She added that she looks forward to “continuing the fight for the sort of common-sense conservative solutions that will protect the unborn, reduce taxes, shrink the federal government and preserve our national security” during the fall campaign.
John Larson savored his victory over Carolyn Highsmith in the Democratic primary for the South Ward seat on Winston-Salem City Council on the porch of Washington Perk & Provision. The special election — a do-over after the state Board of Elections threw out the results of the March 15 election because of voter disenfranchisement — drove a relatively high turnout in Forsyth County of 8.4 percent.
Larson said his campaign benefited from the extra time and longer days to get their message to the voters.
“We had more time to get down to the southern neighborhoods at the south end of the ward,” he said, “and let people know we were committed to these neighborhoods. We wanted as many people to turn out as possible, and we advertised on billboards and door hangers to let them know there was an election on June 7.
“I think our message resonated such as the value of parks that Carolyn did not support,” he continued. “It became obvious that she had not supported the bond referendum, and that was a concern. That combined with the people’s perception that we fought for the right to vote.”
While Highsmith did not respond in an interview to the charge that she had not supported the 2014 bond referendum, she complained, “They did a negative campaign against me, on Facebook and with letters to the editor. Some of it was just outright lies. I didn’t want to address it because it would feed their negativity.”
With final but unofficial results showing Larson winning with 63.1 percent of the vote compared to 36.9 percent, Highsmith indicated she wasn’t ready to accept defeat.
“I do not think he is the right person to be representing the South Ward,” Highsmith said. “He still has a November election. There are a lot of people who have a lot of concerns about the direction of the city in the South Ward. We do have a power base and we will hold them accountable. They haven’t heard the last of this.”