DOBSON — A 7 percent turnout for an election is usually nothing to brag about, but the basic message from a local official is, “we’ll take it.”’
“Seven percent for a second primary for Surry County, that’s high,” county Elections Director Susan Jarrell said Wednesday of the 6th District Republican congressional runoff the day before in which Mark Walker defeated Phil Berger Jr.
“Two percent is average for a second primary turnout,” Jarrell added of local participation. The fact that it tripled for the Berger-Walker race is noteworthy, since only one choice was involved, balloting was limited to registered Republicans and certain unaffiliated voters and no local race was featured.
Walker’s final unofficial vote total in Surry Tuesday was 1,022 (53.2 percent), compared to 898 for Berger (46.8 percent), who had defeated Walker and seven other candidates in the first primary on May 6, including capturing Surry County. The runoff was declared due to Berger not winning by a wide enough margin.
Across the 10-county 6th District Tuesday, Walker won 18,871 to 12,550 (60 percent to 40 percent).
Walker, a Greensboro minister, will now be the Republican nominee for the general election in November, running against Democrat Laura Fjeld to replace veteran Rep. Howard Coble, 83, who is retiring when his present term in Congress expires at the end of this year.
In mentioning that turnout in Surry County was relatively high, the local elections director pointed to several “hot spots” where activity was greatest.
Leading the way was the Eldora precinct, where 125 ballots were cast. Pilot Mountain No. 2 ran closely behind with 113 voters.
“The biggest turnout was in the heavily Republican areas,” Jarrell said.
On the other end of the scale, only 11 people voted at the Dobson No. 1 precinct.
The victory by Walker surprised many observers, particularly due to Berger’s success in the first primary.
AJ Daoud, a Pilot Mountain businessman who is the Republican Party chairman for the 6th District, said several factors seemed to be at play Tuesday, including voters seeing Walker as “a fresh face.”
“The anticipated turnout was supposed to be three percent and I think it actually ended up being eight percent,” Daoud said, which was remarkable considering that storms caused power outages in some parts of the district.
This indicates that people were determined to cast ballots, and in a runoff election the key is “who can excite the voters to come out and vote,” the district chairman said. Berger and Walker waged a “vigorous” race, he added. “There were a lot of shots back and forth.”
Daoud further believes the result reflected the public’s dissatisfaction with the political status quo in Congress, with Berger viewed as a candidate trying to rely on his connections to ease into the Washington, D.C., mainstream and become part of its business as usual.
“And the people’s voice spoke.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.