The more local election results we see, the more we’re convinced that hard work pays dividends. Hard work and crafty campaigning.
How else to explain how Clayton candidate Butch Lawter received almost twice as many votes as his closest competitor? How else to explain how no other Smithfield candidate was within 280 votes of ballot leader Emery Ashley? How else to explain how a political newcomer in Smithfield bested an incumbent?
In Clayton, Lawter and another incumbent, Jason Thompson, won reelection. But while Lawter received 352 votes, Thompson tallied just 189. Lawter and Thompson serve on a council where unanimous votes are the rule rather than the exception; in other words, their policy positions aren’t that much different, at least when it comes to voting yea or nay on a proposal. So how did Lawter poll so much better than Thompson? Thomson says he took his distant-second-place finish as a message from voters that he needs to be a more-vocal council member. Perhaps, but we’re also confident that Lawter worked harder than any other candidate on the Clayton ballot, and we suspect too that he employed a couple of tried-and-true campaign techniques. Ditto for Mr. Ashley in Smithfield and for two other political Smithfield winners, John Dunn and Steve Rabil.
We’re just guessing here, but our suspicion is that key supporters of Mr. Lawter and Mr. Ashley voted for them and no one else, even though they could vote for multiple candidates – two in Clayton and three in Smithfield. We suspect too that with voters not in their camp Mr. Lawter and Mr. Ashley employed a strategy used so successfully by former Johnston school board member Kay Carroll.
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Depending on the year, Johnston voters elect either three or four school board members, meaning voters can always cast ballots for more than one candidate. Carroll’s strategy was to ask for just one of those votes, even if he knew the person he was talking to was a big supporter of, say, Jack O’Hale or Dorothy Johnson. So on election day, one voter cast ballots for O’Hale and Carroll and another cast ballots for Johnson and Carroll. Count those ballots and Carroll has two votes, O’Hale and Johnson have one vote each. Simple but effective.
We’re coming up on a major election year for this country, our state and our county, so we’ll hear a lot about policy prescriptions – what ideas will work best for Americans, North Carolinians and Johnstonians. Ideas matter, no doubt about it, but so do hard work and campaign strategy. Local election results prove that.