Blue Dare edges toward red on political spectrum

By on January 29, 2012

Is Dare a red or blue county? When I moved here in the 1990s, Dare was decidedly Democratic.

In those days, Dare Democrats were more than a political party. The county organization was more akin to a social club. Almost every businessperson, including many conservatives who would have been Republicans anywhere else, embraced the Democrats.

Credit much of this to the power of Marc Basnight and the desire of office-seekers to align with his political base.

When the Democrats hosted a social event, the attendees composed a Who’s Who of local business, political, and civic leaders.

By contrast, the GOP meetings were small and lacking in grassroots supporters. The party was heavily concentrated in Southern Shores, and attending their meetings, one could almost see a living example of what was fast becoming an anachronism — the “country-club” Republican.

The year 2010 signaled significant change at the state and local levels. Not only did the GOP take both houses of the state legislature for the first time in a century, Dare Republicans also did remarkably well.

The GOP won the sheriff’s race, ousting a Democratic incumbent not considered embattled. Jack Shea fought off a well-connected and moderate Democrat, Robin Mann, retaining his seat on the county Board.

And Bob Steinburg, the GOP candidate for the North Carolina House, carried Dare County against incumbent Tim Spear with 53 percent of the vote. Going back as far as 1996, we could not find an instance where the GOP House candidates could gather more than 45 percent of the vote.

After the 2010 elections, I visited the Dare County Board of Elections and obtained the results going back four election cycles (to 2004). I also scanned the results on the state Board of Election’s site which go back to 1996.

My intention was to see if the data indicated whether the Republicans were gaining ground on the Democrats locally and if the trends indicated whether the GOP might supplant the Democrats as the dominant Dare political force.

This is a difficult county to assess, primarily because of the massive influence of Sen. Marc Basnight in past elections. Basnight’s local margins were massive, and his influence had coattails down to the state house races, where Democratic victories were not only lopsided but sometimes lacked a Republican challenger.

Basnight himself ran unopposed once in the last four election cycles.

At the Federal level, Dare was also different in that it while it supported local Democrats, Republican candidates for President, U.S. Senate and the House typically carry the county. The data sat around my makeshift office for almost a year while I tried to make some sense of the numbers.

It wasn’t until I began teaching political science and returning to my habit of reading academic journals that I came across some studies on political party identification and newer ways to measure voter sentiment.

Political scientist Cal Jillson hit upon an interesting observation in his widely used textbook: “American Government: Political Development and Institutional Change.” Jillson notes that “historically, the less visible the office, the more likely voters were to be guided by their partisan identification.”

In the past, other methods of identifying partisan preferences among voters have not served us well as predictors. For example, in Dare County, there are 10,203 registered Democrats compared to 7,928 Republicans. Yet Republicans outpolled Democrats in the 2010 elections and the GOP has typically carried the county in presidential elections for more than two decades.

Surveying voters has also been difficult. While close to 40 percent of American voters inform pollsters they are independent, when pressed by other questions, we find on 11 percent of the voters are true independents. The remaining 29 percent who call themselves independent actually lean toward one of the two parties often enough that their behavior mimics partisan identifiers rather than independent voters.

To try to find what trend Dare might be following, we looked at the lesser-known state constitutional elections, which are partisan. These include offices of Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Treasurer, Commissioner of Labor, Commissioner of Insurance, State Auditor and the Commissioner of Agriculture. One might expect that voters, lacking any knowledge of the candidates, would rely on their partisan leanings in deciding which lever to pull.

The results for 2004 and 2008 demonstrate that Republicans are running neck and neck with Democrats in this category, eking out a small majority when the two years are combined. (Partisan votes for all constitutional offices were aggregated for each party in each election.)

For federal offices, Republicans have dominated Democrats in Dare, with voting percentages ranging from a low of 57 percent to a high of 67 percent. Democrats have dominated the races for state House and Senate, but these aggregate totals reflect mostly Basnight’s large vote totals (we left out the 2008 vote totals when Basnight ran unopposed).

Democrats also dominate the state’s top offices of governor, lieutentnat governor, and attorney general, a trend also reflected in statewide results.

Locally, only the Dare County Board of Commissioners is a partisan race, and many of those races have been single-candidate elections, making it difficult to identify trends.

What the data does tell us is that the local GOP turned a corner starting with the 2000 elections. Republicans now hold three of the seven county commissioner seats and the sheriff’s office. Elections where candidates are not well known are also trending Republican, as the results for constitutional offices reflect. And the GOP did carry Dare in 2010’s state house race.

Without Marc Basnight and now Tim Spear, 2012 may turn out to be an election where a clearer trend might emerge. For now, Democrats still dominate Dare County, but the local GOP is no longer a paper tiger running sacrificial lambs for office.

Dare is now a toss-up county and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.


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Dave Burton

September 27, 2012 2:11 pm

One clarification: although, as the article says, “Bob Steinburg, the GOP candidate for the North Carolina House, carried Dare County against incumbent Tim Spear with 53 percent of the vote” [in 2010], Spear still won that race. Here’s his page at the NCGA web site:
[Disclosure: I'm a Republican and Spear is a Democrat, but I have to admit that Spear is a genuinely nice guy.]

Also, in reply to “Fish,” though it’s true that both the retirement of Marc Basnight and population shifts have cost Eastern NC clout in Raleigh, one bright spot for Eastern NC is the growing clout of NC-20, which had several legislative successes protecting coastal interests.
[Disclosure: I'm on the NC-20 Board]

Johnny Cyclone

March 19, 2012 3:13 pm

As a former Democrat, it pains me to say the Democrat leaders (and the party) care nothing for the common people or the country now days. I will vote for the Republicans and Independents until my former party starts to remember they are Americans first and Democrats second.The President would be more at home with Chavez and Castro than he would be with JFK and FDR. He is a joke, and a bad one at that.


February 23, 2012 10:52 pm

On another front. Term limits will be a GREAT improvement but the “mess” we have will continue until enough people force REPLACEMENT of the taxing of income with a consumption tax such as proposed by THE FAIRTAX H R 25 S 13 Again it is RELACEMENT that is needed. NOT reform of the tax code. Reform has been going on since Feb 3 1913. The taxing of income is the second plank of communism and it has worked for them as intended.


February 23, 2012 10:21 pm

First of all, the GOP has held power in Raleigh for just over a year. One should not expect absolute wonders knowing they have over 100 yrs of wrong to right. Secondly, not by contortion of my imagination or process of reasoning do I understand how any healthy minded American who has read THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO and the U S Constitution not conclude that the POTUS is an agent of communism. Continued self education can be well served by reading these two books. ROOTS OF OBOMA’S RAGE and RADICAL IN CHIEF. Time does change but core human nature does not. The love of power and control exists just as it has throughout history AND it always will. The POTUS has chosen to activate the U N proposal of AGENDA 21. I rest my case. Enjoy reading.

Bob Samuels

February 17, 2012 6:20 pm

How have they taken control? By eliminating the .01 cent sales tax, laying off hundreds if not thousands of public employees – that really bolsters the economy (not). Or, by raising the gas tax at a time when we are at already near record prices, that really helps the working family (not). The New Members of the General Assembly (Republican) ran in the last election with the promise of creating jobs to bolster the economy. They have failed. Their main agenda seems to be dealing with divisive social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.
And all you folks claiming Obama is a Communist. The 1950′s & McCarthyism. Really? Educate yourselves. The Communist Manifesto vs. US Constitution – read them instead of spouting off accusations without any definitive substance. As Obamas’ predecessor would say, “explainify yourself”. Some term limits, less special interest influence and less money in campaigns (Citizens United) can help bring an end to a lot of this mess.
See ya!


February 14, 2012 9:35 am

John – how big is the deficit you speak of? I didn’t think state governments could engage in deficit spending. Please back up your statement with factual information.


February 13, 2012 3:01 pm

For nearly a 100 years the Democrats have had control of our state government. During that time they have pork belly spent our state into a huge deficit. So don’t blame the new Republican boys in Raleigh for being responsible enough to actually take control and bring our state out of the financial hole it’s in!

Russ Lay

February 8, 2012 12:44 pm

Boroson: Point taken. The first amendment does protect you from government censorship, but as I tell my students, it doesn’t mean a radio station can’t exclude an explicit lyric. I wasn’t actually referring to any one post, just the whole tenor, bozo, etc. I think cable TV news has made us all think politics is just a shouting match where we yell over the other side or make personal characterizations, It wasn’t directed at any one person, just popped up under Browny’s post.


February 8, 2012 10:52 am

Ahhh, Roger: I not only agree, I give you 5 gold stars for spelling and grammar. It’s hard to credit people with much intelligence when they can’t write a proper sentence…or cite reality-based ‘facts’ to back them up.


February 7, 2012 8:38 am

Totalitarianism, its whats for dinner. (in dare county)


February 3, 2012 2:09 pm

Respect for the office is one thing. Respect for who holds the office is another. There is no reasonable logic or actions to support that the current President is a friend of America. I know I know we all have an opinion and I like Thomas Paine respect all others right to their opinion however different it may be from mine.Right of opinion is one thing and substance of opinion is another.I like boroson contend that the present leader of our Nation is a communist and communism is in no way about liberty except that there should be none.


February 1, 2012 9:54 pm

Well Russ, I believe that the first ammendment gives us the right to say most anything we please about whomever we please, president included. I do not agree with much of what this president does and he is a communist through and through. That stated,I do have some respect for him, he is the commander in chief after all, but I have to cite the facts as they are presented.

I concur with Browny. Read the communist manifesto and focus on the 10 planks and compare our society with respect to these points. I think anyone with an open mind can see that we are walking a dangerous path. We have allowed this to happen by our apathetic response to utopian ideas which by the way, never work.

We all, whatever party we follow, need to stop bickering over these issues created, by design, to keep us in an unresponsive state, allowing those in and around gov’t. to continue to steal our property and Liberty. We must band together and vote them all out and the FairTax in. It’s our only hope. And keep reading.


February 1, 2012 9:27 pm

Nice article Russ. I have to wonder though if any republican can make it to the white house this year. Though the trend may be the lesser known positions get the partisan vote, the republican party has decided to lean toward the right (far to the right). SO their political dialogue is patterned to please the far right. The further to the right you go, the more you get to be a Nazi. Both the left and the right have their extremists. Extremists should be heard, but NEVER elected. The Taliban and al-Qaeda and the leaders of Iran are far right terrorists. Do we really want that in the white house? As for the other posters who like to mimic what they hear on FOX but can’t back up with any logic – that’s what I’m talkin bout.

Russ Lay

February 1, 2012 2:11 pm

I try to avoid these and let the readers have fun. But the college teacher in me has to say one thing…

In spite of my libertarian leanings, I would tell my students to respect the system. Liberty has the right leader in the White House since he was elected by the people, an essential component of liberty.

Folks may disagree on the policies and beliefs of our leaders, including how they handle the broad issue of “liberty”, but we elect our leaders and we can un-elect them. While they are in office, however, Americans have and hopefully will continue to respect the office and the winner.


February 1, 2012 12:27 pm

Before the subject of communism gets too deep,all interested and that should be all at heart Americans, need to google THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. More pointedly the ten planks of communism. Political stealth is a powerful thing and very unrecognizable. See if YOU can recognize it after viewing the ten planks. I agree that America is in deep trouble. Liberty does not have the right leader in the WHITE HOUSE.


February 1, 2012 12:08 pm

Hallelujah Kevin, a politician who understands the nature of the office he is running for. You’ve got my vote!

Kevin Gray Conner

January 31, 2012 7:02 pm

As a candidate for Dare County Commissioner (District 4), I have made a commitment to serve only one 4 year term if elected. After 4 years, I believe you become a part of the very system you vowed to fight.


January 31, 2012 6:27 pm

Man, it’s hard to conceive that an intelligent person would say that Republicans are neither for equality nor the environment—-WTF?


January 31, 2012 12:01 pm

…and junkman is absolutely on the mark!


January 31, 2012 11:53 am

Let’s add some spice to this partisan discussion – specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds. Check it out:


January 31, 2012 9:56 am

Very interesting breakdown of election stats Russ! With the departure of Sen. Basnight and the upcoming departure of Gov. Perdue (with the likely election of former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory) Dare County and Eastern NC are likely to see a continued decline in state support. This could have a serious impact as the state examines where money is going towards projects like Jennette’s Pier, the Aquariums, and Festival Park – all of which operate in the red, employee hundreds of Dare County citizens, and draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. How will this impact our local economy?

Regarding prior commentaries: STAN CLOUGH – I strongly disagree with your statement that Pres. Obama is leaning towards communism. Please explain.

SOUTHERNSHORESGUY – regarding your assertion that less government oversight of banks would provide a fairer environment to consumers. . . how would you explain the corrupt and illegal lending practices banks like Goldman Sachs and CountryWide got away with that led to the economic collapse? They happened due to a LACK of govt oversight and an extremely weak & corrupt SEC. STRONGER regulations would have prevented such a failure. Even now, no one is in jail due to these abuses against the common man and their savings of honestly earned money.


January 31, 2012 1:02 am

Communism is nourished by chaos. All forms of chaos. Tax chaos is at the root of this country’s political strife. Our oppressive INCOME tax code is the backbone of corruption within our political system. When and only when enough good people join forces to cause repeal of the 16th amendment and move to a national CONSUMPTION tax, such as the FairTax, will there be any reasonable expectation of the American expieriment to survive the test of time. Until that simple but monumental task is achieved the ugliness of differences of opinion between Republicans and Democrats will rage on, thus by design to the detriment of the people, liberty will give way to tyranny.


January 30, 2012 10:49 pm

(Personally, I love lima beans and I can eat them every night without complaint!)

Having said that, I understand what Outerbanxer is saying. The last part I was affiliated with was the Libertarian Party. I am now an independent (although I do tend to vote Republican).

Frankly, I wish we had some people who would just set us free to be the good and decent people most of us are without all of the unneeded laws and regulations!


January 30, 2012 10:08 pm

I tend to wonder what percentage of Dare county voted for independents since Perot back in 1992? It seems to me that the voter base in Dare is more polarized with local economy issues, and tends to like the “it’s the economy, stupid!” part of politics. It’s very easy to get elected when the bills are paid, very hard to get elected when your family is eating Lima Beans every night “hoping” for green energy to be engineered so we can have smart cars and world peace.


January 30, 2012 10:04 pm

One of my favorite things about voting in this county is, first, stand in line while a nice lady slowly and painfully looks up your name, second after you sign your name and are given your ballot, she hollers your party affiliation for all in the polling place to hear as you proceed to the voting booth to color in the circles and cast your ballot. Gotta love it!


January 30, 2012 9:49 pm

Hey beachornot! Good observation.

The main difference between Democrats and Republicans are which of your pockets they have their hands in — which part of your lives they want to control!

Less Government is better government. Less governmental protection to banks and other large businesses to create a fairer environment for all of us to do business with our neighbors. That is what we should consider.

And another thing

January 30, 2012 9:28 pm

Martin Luther King was a Republican. I don’t see him mentioned in the attacks on Republicans on this website. Maybe its because the stereotypes about Republicans are misguided.

Repeating the same worn message that Dems care about “the little guy” and GOPers only care about “the rich” is not helping us work together to solve the state’s problems especially the financial ones (I assume everyone is aware that the state and the federal government are broke). Thank God for the internet where we can find some truth if we do solid research. We get precious little truth from the media.

Yes, term limits is a solution. Next question, why would any sane person want to run for office? It’s because of the perks. Otherwise, we will have elections with no candidates. Disagree? Are you running for office? Why not? We need people to run for local elections. You do it and then see how fast you criticize others.

It will be a noble calling again when we get the corrupt politicians out. VOTE IN NOVEMBER – vote for the person, not the party. There are some decent, honest ones. A few.

Stan Clough

January 30, 2012 9:16 pm

“junkman says,” what you say is junk, so , yes you are the junkman. What we have now is a president that is leaning towards communism. Our country is in trouble. Get your junk out of the way so real people can get in there and govern our country.


January 30, 2012 8:04 pm

There is a core who claim to be Democrats but are, in reality, current day Dixiecrats – members of the party but opposed to progressive changes advocated by modern day Democrats. So, in effect they’re Repubilicans and vote that way. Its interesting to see the evolution of Republicans…….Lincoln was a Republican and, lets say, supported equality. Theodore Roosevelt was a Repubilcan who was an environmentalist. Today, Repubilcans are neither. In any case, its inconceivable to think that anyone would vote to return the Repubilcans to office after what they’ve done to the economy, civil rights, and personal freedoms. – thank you George Bush.


January 30, 2012 5:34 pm

another thing and Beachornot!SOOO WELL SAID! this country is in such a mess , I dont want Romney or Gingrich, Dam sure dont want the BOZO we have in there NOW!!!!


January 30, 2012 1:49 pm

The blue dog dem’s dominate Dare, voting repuglican while claiming to be dem’s. The two-faced hypocrisy is rampant and the GOP policies are oppressive. How many times will the people’s will be subrogated by these false flag politicians and Democrats (think sand tax, “revenue neutral” property valuations and unnecessary imposition of water/sewer systems)? The churches dog-whistle GOP policy and turn their backs on the damages done. The working men and women of Dare Co. don’t stand a chance against the classist environment that pays peanuts while demanding more taxes and accomplishing less in terms of serving the citizens with basic human needs…but that’s the GOP! It is an adversarial environment between citizens and Dare gov’t…We need full time statesmen in Dare gov’t, fewer grandiose buildings and objective liasons between gov’t and citizens to receive input from citizens and to advocate for implementation of progressive ideas so the economy can improve in a sustainable way.


January 30, 2012 1:30 pm

I also wonder about the impact that a poor economy and high unemployment has on this issue. I wonder whether there are higher percentages of Democrats in lower to middle income ranges, and if so whether many who have been hit by a bad economy have moved out of the area leaving more retirees and those who can afford to stay. I’d be curious to look at census data to see if there are any trends there as well.

Frank Moore

January 30, 2012 12:35 pm

Term limits are sorely needed. After term, after term those in office feel it is a right rather than an honor to serve.


January 30, 2012 11:44 am

I can’t help but think that an equal variable is a general consensus amongst voters of discontent for incumbents. The Tea Party, the Occupy movement and the rise in Independent and Libertarian affiliation I believe all indicates the same thing. Although the faces change, we’ve all seen the same old tired dog and pony show before. Its like Gingrich saying that after 30 years he’s going to change his stripes and trying to sell the public on the fact that he’s a outsider. Give me a break!
The democratic and republican parties offer little in the way of difference once they get into office. They are all there to protect their own little nest, to buy the public’s gratitude with pork barrel projects and thus to insure re-election. One term for the bums and vote them out!

And another thing

January 30, 2012 8:13 am

Aha – the unmentioined variable in this analysis is that for years people of Dare were intimidated into registering as Democrats while their political leanings were away from the “progressive” (communist wannabe) element that has gradually taken over the “National Party No More”. As long as NC continues to have open primaries, the numbers will remain skewed, too, as unaffiliateds feel they can influence the outcome without declaring their party. I suggest you poll people on their core beliefs, not party affiliation. Dems still play politics with employers and cronies in Dare County, though it is improving.

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