The election of Beale and Simpson mirrors that of the May primaries in which the two candidates were the top vote-getters in the four-candidate Democratic pool. At that time Simpson led the ticket, garnering 1,477 votes, while Beale was close behind at 1,352.
Beale and Simpson switched places in the general election Tuesday with Beale garnering a total of 6,416 and Simpson a total of 6,233 to be the top two vote-getters. Beale and Simpson, both contractors, beat Harold Corbin, a progressive retired caterer and farmer, and Rick Mashburn, a Caterpillar Precision Seals employee.
McClellan beat Bryson 6,311 to 6,186. In an interview just prior to the elections, McClellan said that it was time for a change in county government.
“In general I think it’s time to have a county government that’s more accountable to the people, that operates in a more open manner and remembers whose money they’re working with,” he said.
Bryson came under fire from his Highlands constituents for his actions as county commissioner that went against local interests. Bryson was blamed for a county lawsuit against Highlands when the town attempted to create an extra-territorial jurisdiction — a special area that is not taxed but is subject to town zoning regulations.
The change in Highlands’ representation will lead the board of commissioners to select a new chairman, most likely Republican Charlie Leatherman. Leatherman is currently the commissioner’s liaison to the Macon County Planning Board. Beale resigned as chairman of the planning board in September. He could potentially return to the planning board, assuming Leatherman’s role.
Overall Democratic candidates carried the county, with Congressional candidate Health Shuler, Sen. John Snow, Rep. Phil Haire and District Attorney Mike Bonfoey also winning their elections against Republican challengers. The results indicate a turn in the electoral tide for Macon County, which has traditionally elected Republican candidates.
Voters interviewed in exit polls in Macon County cited the congressional race between Shuler and Rep. Charles Taylor, R-Brevard, and the race for sheriff between incumbent Republican Robert Holland and challenger C.D. Jenkins as the primary reasons for coming out to cast their ballots Tuesday.