By John Brasier, Watauga Democrat:
BOONE — Democrat Larry Turnbow unseated incumbent Republican David Blust in Tuesday’s Watauga County Board of Commissioners race, swinging the board to a 3-2 Democratic majority.
Powered by huge support in early voting at Appalachian State University and the Watauga County Administration Building, Turnbow captured 50.93 percent of the vote in District 4, beating Blust by 512 votes for the District 4 seat.
All election results are unofficial until verified by election canvasses by the county and the state. Watauga Board of Elections member Stella Anderson said about 500 provisional ballots would be counted at a county canvass on Nov. 18 if voter registration can be verified.
Turnbow outpolled Blust by 2,270 votes in early voting at ASU. Turnbow also won by a big margin – 1,245 votes – in early voting at the Administration Building.
“I am really gratified that the people of Watauga County decided to make a change on the county board,” Turnbow said. “This is a positive step for our community, our schools and a chance to work on our recreation opportunities. I look forward to working in a positive direction for the people of Watauga County. That’s what I ran on and that’s how they voted.”
Blust beat Turnbow in 2014.
“It’s really easy to stand up here when you win, and I’ve lost races before, and it’s difficult to lose a race, especially when you’re representing the county like you folks,” Blust said. “It’s been an honor to serve you, and I mean that. I’m always optimistic, but you never know in a presidential year what the college is going to do to you, so it’s tough. But again, it’s really truly been an honor to serve you as a county commissioner.”
Republican Perry Yates and Democrat John Welch successfully held on to their seats on the school board. Yates captured 52.61 percent of the votes against Diane Warman Blanks while Welch won 55.39 percent in a victory over Elizabeth Shukis.
Yates and Welch earned four-year terms as the two winners with the highest vote totals, leaving Turnbow with a two-year term.
“I’m humbled. Thank you for letting me serve you for the last four years, and now four more years,” Yates said. “I’ll do my best to maintain Godly, conservative values. I’ll fight for each one of you as hard as I have before, and I’ll do my best to be your representative.”
In N.C. House District 93, incumbent Republican Jonathan Jordan of Ashe County won reelection, receiving 53 percent of the votes against Democrat Sue Counts of Watauga, despite losing Watauga County.
Jordan credited the victory to his campaign focus on House achievements made during his last term.
“I think the fact that I ran a pretty darn positive campaign,” said Jordan, adding that voters agreed with his perspective. “I think that message got through to the people.”
“I’m grateful first of all to my family, and to all those who participated in my campaign and this hard-fought election,” Counts said in a prepared statement. “I congratulate Rep. Jordan on his victory, and hope he will take seriously the concerns of the thousands of voters in Ashe and Watauga counties who have shown their displeasure with politics as usual in Raleigh.”
In N.C. Senate District 45, incumbent Republican Deanna Ballard of Boone routed Democrat Art Sherwood of Caldwell County, receiving 65 percent of the vote.
“It’s been such a joy and a learning experience over the last year, and I want to thank you for believing in me and having faith in me,” Ballard said. “I promise I’m committed to being the hardest-working senator for you guys.”
Despite the easy victory, Ballard won Watauga County by only 99 votes. The almost 5,900 voters at ASU gave Sherwood a margin greater than 2-1.
Brenda Reese, Ron Henries and Barbara Kinsey won seats on the Watauga County school board in a tight race pitting four candidates for three spots. Steve Combs finished with 13,575 votes, only 1,309 fewer than No. 3 vote-getter Kinsey.
In the N.C. District Court Judge District 24 battle of Watauga candidates, Rebecca Eggers-Gryder had a seemingly comfortable lead with 52.59 percent of the vote against challenger Josh Teague.
Brian Miller and Jeff Eason contributed reporting to this article.