Swain County residents overwhelmingly chose John Ensley in Tuesday’s Democratic primary runoff for sheriff — those who voted anyway.
Ensley, the owner of Yellow Rose Realty, easily prevailed over opponent Mitchell Jenkins with 478 votes.
With more than 60 percent of the vote, Ensley is all set to face Republican incumbent Curtis Cochran this fall.
“I’m really excited, and I’m happy that it’s over with,” said Ensley, the first Democrat to announce his intentions to run, more than a year before the primary.
Ensley said going head to head with Cochran would be challenging. “He’s a very good campaigner, and people like him. I know I’ve got my work cut out for me,” said Ensley.
Cochran, who received strong backing from his party in the May primary, says he feels optimistic about the fall election. Whether his opponent is Ensley or Jenkins would make no difference in how he runs his campaign.
“I’m not going to run against them, I’m running to win the election,” said Cochran. “The people in 2006 put enough trust in me to do this job. I think they’re going to be confident enough in this election to put us back in.”
Jenkins, a self-employed logger, locked down 314 votes, the remaining 40 percent.
Jenkins had called for a rematch shortly after the primary results came back with Ensley receiving less than 29 percent of the vote in May. Primary runoffs can be held only if the top vote-getter fails to secure 40 percent of the vote.
About 11.5 percent of Swain voters eligible to cast ballots showed up for Tuesday’s rematch, much less than the 28 percent who voted in the primary election in May.