“I feel like the vote for me affirmed the decisions we have been making and the direction our board has been going,” said Ensley, a land surveyor and a Republican.
Ensley’s comfortable win was a reflection of garnering all the Republican voters, plus convincing Democrats to break ranks and vote for him based on his performance the past eight years. It was impressive nonetheless given the majority of Haywood voters are registered Democrats. Ensley is the only Republican on the board of commissioners — and the only Republican to ever serve three terms in the history of Haywood County.
It was a much closer race for fellow commissioner Swanger, who barely edged out Tea Party candidate Denny King by about 300 votes to win a third term on the board.
“I am pleased that I won,” said Swanger, a 61-year-old retired FBI special agent who has served eight years on the board. “It doesn’t matter if you won by one vote or more.”
The two incumbents beat out their challengers King, a 52-year-old engineer at BorgWarner in Asheville, and Mike Treadway, a 58-year-old employee at Evergreen Packaging in Canton.
Voters who traveled to the polls this year were mostly focused on the presidential race. Based on exit polls conducted by The Smoky Mountain News throughout the county, few remembered whom they even voted for in other U.S. or state races upon leaving the voting booth — let alone the local county commissioners’ race.
A lack of knowledge about the commissioner candidates led many to choose based on party affiliation and trickledown votes based on whether they voted for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for president.
Donna Ewart, a 49-year-old Jonathan Creek resident, said her ballot was straight Democrat because she was felt strongly against the Republican Party, not any particular candidate.
“I really didn’t feel passionate about anybody,” Ewart said.
On the other hand, Kevin Alford, owner of Alford Engineering in Maggie Valley, voted straight Republican because he saw a decline in business during the president’s tenure.
“My business is down probably 55 percent,” Alford said.
Haywood County commissioner
Kevin Ensley (R) ..................14,797 (28.8%)
Mark Swanger (D) ...............12,970 (25.2%)
Denny King (R) ....................12,605 (24.5%)
Mike Treadway (D)...............11,075 (21.5%)