First Posted: 10/6/2009
Teresa Lewis dominated Tuesdays primary for Mount Airy mayor by capturing nearly 45 percent of the votes cast, and now will face second-place finisher Deborah Cochran in next months general election.
Obviously, Im still overwhelmed, Lewis said Tuesday night at Leons Burger Express on North Main Street in the midst of a crowd of well-wishers.
Campaign workers, family members and other supporters of Lewis had begun gathering there about 45 minutes before the polls closed at 7:30 p.m. to monitor election results broadcast by a local radio station.
And by the time the returns starting rolling in around 8 p.m., it was clear that the downtown diner would be the scene of a huge victory celebration.
Lewis credited her strong primary showing to the spirit exhibited by those who worked on her behalf.
The volunteers that we organized were dedicated and passionate, said the 50-year-old president and owner of Workforce Carolina, who amassed 592 votes from citizens representing seven precincts, based on unofficial totals.
That was more than 200 votes ahead of Cochran, who garnered 375 votes, 28.37 percent of the total cast.
Gene Clark finished third with 182 votes (13.77 percent), slightly ahead of Paul Eich with 173 (13.09 percent). The voter turnout was just under 20 percent, which a county elections official said was better than anticipated for a municipal primary.
The four candidates waged one of the hardest-fought elections in Mount Airy in years and focused much attention on recent actions by city government regarding annexation, budgeting and other issues.
In addition to the hard work of volunteers, Lewis credited her victory Tuesday night to the fact that she avoided criticism of present municipal officials, in contrast to other candidates.
I think that people overall want to be positive and they want to look toward the future, said the candidate, who has been heavily involved in the past with various community organizations including the Chamber of Commerce and United Fund.
Everybody that knows me knows Im that kind of person.
Although she was celebrating the primary victory Tuesday night, Lewis took time to look ahead to the next few weeks until the Nov. 3 general election when the citys next mayor will be chosen.
She pledged to run the same kind of campaign. I believe well maintain the voters and supporters that we had tonight.
Lewis captured the majority of the larger precincts, including Mount Airy No. 3 (with voting occurring at Grace Moravian Church), Mount Airy No. 2 (L.H. Jones Family Resource Center) and Mount Airy No. 4 (the Franklin Volunteer Fire Department substation on Greenhill Road).
Cochran, however, finished ahead of Lewis in the Mount Airy No. 1 precinct, where ballots were cast at the Municipal Building.
Well, Im extremely pleased, Cochran, 47, said Tuesday night of her second-place showing.
She also commended the campaign waged by Lewis. She and her supporters gave it all they had, said the longtime broadcast personality at radio station WSYD. They worked extremely hard.
In listing the factors for the outcome of the primary, Cochran avoided commenting on the fact that Lewis far outspent her opponents.
I think her being so well-known and so involved with community affairs, I think that helped her tremendously, Cochran said. But the runner-up added that she is grateful to all the voters who supported her and she is looking forward to Round Two of the mayors race.
Ill continue to pray and work hard day and night, Cochran said. I am grateful and blessed to be where I am, so Im really appreciative to the voters.
Cochran also praised the major effort exhibited by the Clark and Eich campaigns. I hold them in the highest regard and I admire their willingness to serve.
The support of those candidates could be the deciding factor in next months general election.
Eich said Tuesday night that he will back Cochran the rest of the way, while Clark declined to make public his intentions along those lines.
Im disappointed, but Im glad I did it, Clark said of seeking the mayors post. And Ill probably be more active now that Ive did this.
The third-place finisher said that both Lewis and Cochran enjoyed greater name-recognition than him and Eich, and added that Lewis huge spending didnt hurt, either.
Teresa spent a lot of money per vote, said Clark, a 47-year-old furniture company executive, who put that figure at $17 based on her unofficial total. Thats a lot of happy meals.
He said with the election now down to two people, it will be interesting to see what happens with the numbers. It could go either way.
Eich, 65, a retiree, said that he believed many key concerns about city government had been brought to the attention of voters, but was disappointed that they didnt respond at the polls. He also cited the effect of Lewis well-financed campaign.
Saying he absolutely will swing his support to Cochran, Eich said the key in the general election will be whether citizens want to maintain her as at-large commissioner or opt to elevate Cochran to the citys top leadership position.
It was an interesting event, he said of the primary experience.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.