by Joe Schwartz
HILLSBOROUGH — “You killed him, it’s an official landslide,” Barry Jacobs supporter Paul Falduto related, peering over a laptop and a burrito to announce that the incumbent had fended off challenger Joe Phelps for the Orange County Commissioners at-large seat.results come in at home.
“Our house was not clean enough to invite people over; we were busy campaigning.” Jacobs said.
The incumbent faced his stiffest and ugliest challenge yet in this, his fourth, county commissioner race.
Former Hillsborough Mayor Joe Phelps went on the attack, running ads claiming that Jacobs missed a property tax re-evalatuion meeting to attend a basketball game. Jacobs has covered ACC sports since the 1970s.
Supporters said they were celebrating a victory both for Jacobs and for the Orange County political process.
“Negative campaigning doesn’t work,” Falduto said. “It was pretty obvious to voters that Barry was doing a good job.”
Jacobs, who accepted the results calmly with a smile, called the election a “nice confirmation of 12 years of service” and said this likely would be his last four-year term.
“Within the realm of my convictions, aspirations and tolerance and my wife’s tolerance, this is enough,” he said. “It’s very gratifying, why mess with it?”
There was some fear that Carrboro Board of Alderman Joal Hall Broun would split the progressive vote with Jacobs and open a path for Phelps, but Broun wasn’t really a factor, earning just 15 percent (1,800 votes).
“Up here people were still asking me, ‘Who’s this Joal guy?’” Jacobs said. “I didn’t enlighten them.”
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, and aldermen Jacquelyn Gist and Dan Coleman attended Jacobs’s party.
“I admire and respect Joal Hall Broun’s service to Carrboro,” Gist said. “I decided to go with Barry Jacobs because the county is at a pivotal point right now, and I don’t know anybody in my 20 years of public service who has done a better job of researching the issues as Barry.”
In other races, Earl McKee squeaked by Renee Price by 90 votes to win the Democratic nomination and now faces Greg Andrews in November.
Jacobs said Price struggled to find her message during the campaign, though she got better with time. It just wasn’t enough to beat McKee, whose family has lived in the county for decades.
Lindy Pendergrass (68 percent) defeated former Hillsborough Police Chief Clarence Birkhead and now moves on to face Buddy Parker in the November election. Pendergrass earned 81 percent of the vote when the two men competed in 2006.
The Orange County Schools race was tight with seven candidates with 1,000 votes of each other in a 21,091-vote race. Ultimately, incumbents Debbie Piscitelli and Anne Medenblik survived and Donna Coffey, a former Orange County budget director, and Brenda Stephens, a former school board member, also won seats.
Ryan Hilliard crushed Jon Bass in the race to run as the Republican against Ellie Kinniard in the N.C. Senate District 23 race with 73 percent of the vote.