by Joe Schwartz
Orange County voters elected newcomer Earl McKee as the District 2 county commissioner, welcomed Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass back for a seventh term and narrowly shot down a 1/4 cent sales tax hike that was endorsed supported by both school boards and chambers of commerce, according to unofficial election results.
McKee, who defeated Renee Price in the primary, coasted to victory in the Board of County Commissioner race with 72 percent of the vote, easily outpacing republican Greg Andrews who ran unopposed in May and couldn't muster momentum. McKee will join Barry Jacobs and Alice Gordon, veteran commissioners who did not face November competition, on the seven-member, all Democrat board.
Pendergrass easily dispatched Buddy Parker with 77 percent to 23 percent. Pendergrass, the Democrat, won 81 percent of the vote when he beat Parker in 2006.
State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (D) earned 64 percent in defeating Ryan Hilliard, who won Person County by 81 votes but was beaten in Orange by 17,595, unofficial state election results show.
The Orange County Commissioners authorized $40,000 of public funds for a campaign to pass the 1/4 cent sales tax increase to 8 cents on the dollar. They placed flyers atop every seat at county meetings, planted yard signs and bought advertising imploring residents to "support jobs and schools." The tax would have raised $2.3 million annually and would have been allocated to schools, economic development and library and emergency services. Now the county will have to find new funding or deepen cuts.
Voters also supported banning all felons from serving as county sheriff by a 4-1 margin.