After a long absence from the seats of Newton County power, the Democrats came back with a surprising vengeance.
Though most expected the party to do well on the coat tails of Barack Obama's candidacy, the reactions of many residents as they watched the results come in at the Board of Elections headquarters were to varying degrees delight, shock and dismay at the strong showing by the Democrats.
With 23 of 24 precincts reporting as of press time, Democrat Kathy Morgan had a commanding lead over two-term incumbent Republican Aaron Varner with 57 percent of the of the vote and 21,220 votes. Varner had 16,197 votes.
"I'm feeling good. I believe in the voters of Newton County," Morgan said. "We've got challenging times ahead of us but I'm up to the challenge and I'm excited."
At 10:50 p.m. Varner briefly made an appearance in the BOE conference room to shake Morgan's hand and congratulate her on her victory.
Morgan, who is the widow of former county chairman Davis Morgan, said she looks forward to working with Varner in the next two months to ease the transition of power and also hopes to work with him in the future on issues of importance to Newton County.
Three of the five commission seats will now be occupied by Democrats on the Board of Commissioners.
Democrat Nancy Schulz and Republican Mort Ewing both had strong leads in their races for District 3 and District 1 respectively and Republican Tim Fleming scored a narrow win over his opponent, Democrat Randy Vinson.
Schulz led Republican Keith Mitcham with 69 percent of the vote and 7,386 ballots to Mitcham's 3,326 ballots.
"I really would like to thank the voters," Schulz said, adding "Keith Mitcham is a gentleman with integrity and it has been a pleasure to be in this race with someone that has the character that he has. I just look forward to serving the people of Newton County."
Ewing led Democrat Mark Patrick with 64 percent of the vote and 5,144 ballots. Patrick had 2,918 votes.
"I've said for the last eight years, the District 1 commission seat belongs to the people of District 1 and they've given me the honor and the privilege of serving in that capacity," Ewing said.
Fleming narrowly won with 51.25 percent of the vote or 3,736 ballots to Vinson's 3,552.
"I want to thank all the voters of District 5 for getting out and voting," Fleming said, adding that the support of his wife and family were essential to winning. "I look forward in the next four years to moving the county forward."