In the latter race, political newbie Jane Whilden collected 19,937 votes (51.71 percent) to opponent Tim Moffitt's 18,618 votes (48.29 percent) to claim the 116th District seat vacated by Republican Rep. Charles Thomas, who chose not to seek re-election. Amid the din of celebration that filled the banquet hall at the Crowne Plaza Resort in West Asheville, Whilden appeared incredulous in victory. "This is the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've had three babies!" she exclaimed to one supporter. Whilden, who previously worked as coordinator of the Governor's Western Residence in Asheville, said she has long had her eye on Raleigh. "I've always had a dream to serve in the Legislature," she told Xpress Tuesday evening, adding, "It's very exciting."
And though the Buncombe County Board of Elections would not release the final numbers until hours later, that didn't stop Democrats from announcing victory. Moffitt, meanwhile, did not answer calls to his Sweeten Creek headquarters.
Democratic state Rep. Bruce Goforth, who prevailed in the 115th District race, called the local election results a "mandate," adding that the Democratic momentum got a big lift from the presidential race. "There's no question about that," he said. Goforth garnered 27,698 votes (67.45 percent).
Mingling among fellow Republicans at the Grove Park Inn, Goforth's opponent, Paul Purdue, put a positive spin on his unsuccessful bid. "I've met some great people," said Purdue, adding that he would be happy if he surpassed the roughly 8,500 votes Republican Eric Gorney received in 2004. By the end of the evening, Purdue had reached that goal, amassing 13,366 votes (32.55 percent). Will he run again? "If my wife lets me," said Purdue.
Republican R.L. Clark, on the other hand, said this would be his last bid for office. The former state senator has run in every legislative contest since 1994, but he'll hang it up after his loss to incumbent Sen. Martin Nesbitt in the 49th District. "My age rules it out," said Clark.
Nesbitt, who gathered 55,957 votes (65.66 percent) to Clark's 29,263 (34.34 percent), said the overriding message of this election was clear. "The people of this area, this state and this nation have outright rejected all of the nastiness in politics," he told Xpress. "You don't have to criminalize your opponent. Hopefully, now, we can have a civil discourse in this country."
And by the way, if you were playing percentages, Susan Fisher was your safest bet. Running unopposed in the 114th House District, she won 100 percent of the vote, with a final tally of 28,196.