Kuppers, the Franklin High School football coach and teacher who served as commissioner the past four years, is one of many Democratic casualties across the region on Election Day.
Higdon, a water and sewer contractor and small business owner, won by a margin of 57 to 42 percent, riding a wave of Republican support in a conservative county turning out to vote in a presidential race.
Higdon wouldn’t take complete credit for his victory and said his win took place within a context of a larger voter movement.
“I’m not naïve enough to think the support was necessarily for Paul Higdon the individual,” he said. “I think there’s a movement in this country of people who think like I do, and that’s being shown in North Carolina tonight.”
He said his focus from the first day in office will be fewer regulations, less taxes and efficiency in government. He said many people in his constituency share those values, and that was reflected in the polls.
“I think it’s a vote for a political philosophy,” Higdon said.
Higdon differed from sitting commissioner Kuppers on several issues, advocating for lower taxes, fewer development regulations and questioning how involved the county should be in helping the school system out of a funding crisis.
Kuppers was one of two Democratic commissioners on the five-person board. Kuppers said after seeing the votes it was apparent the people had chosen his contender by a large margin.
“It was clear; it was decisive,” Kuppers said. “The people decided they wanted to go the other way.”
Kuppers wouldn’t speculate as to whether the votes were actually a referendum on his performance or a conservative wave of Mitt Romney supporters who overwhelmingly won the county.
“I could make a whole bunch of guesses,” Kuppers said. “But he came up with a whole bunch more votes than I did. That’s what democracy was all about.”
Kuppers’ absence and replacement by a conservative commissioner could set the tone for the next four years of Macon County.
The board has had several hot-button topics in recent years. It came under fire when it looked at implementimg regulations on steep-slope construction. Kuppers, though he didn’t say he outright supported the proposed actions, had defended the planning process. Conversely, Higdon called such regulation an infringement on personal liberties.
Yet, Higdon claimed he’s not entering the seat with a given agenda, and Kuppers claimed he’s not overly worried about the board taking a new direction after his departure.
“I have no way of looking into that crystal,” Kuppers said. “But I hope Paul will look at all issues carefully and make decisions in the best interest of the county.”
Macon County commissioner
Paul Higdon (R) .......................9,400 (57%) Bobby Kuppers (D)...................7,069 (43%)
Commissioners Jim Tate and Kevin Corbin ran unopposed for their respective seats on the Macon Board of Commissioners.