How close are we to the #OneNewton objective Chairman Marcello Banes and others are working toward?
And how much of the vote in the General Election was a reaction to local, state or national events this year? It’s hard to tell.
After seeing the unofficial results of the county General and Special Election last week, it’s clear this county over two decades has transformed from a Republican to a Democrat majority for its elected officials.
The results generally show most Newton County voters chose a straight ticket of candidates — either for those with “R” or “D” by their names.
Voters removed Republican holders of two state constitutional offices — tax commissioner and coroner — who had considerable experience in their offices in favor of Democrats with little or no experience.
Some outliers were seen in the results. For example, Coroner Tommy Davis and County Commissioner Ronnie Cowan, both Republicans, won majorities in precincts won by Democratic president-elect Joe Biden.
Voters in their districts also reelected Cowan and Republican Commissioner Stan Edwards with healthy majorities despite the otherwise strong Democratic showing.
However, the Democratic presidential nominee went from winning 39% of Newton County’s votes in 2000 to 55% of the vote in the span of two decades.
In fact, the county has not voted this decisively for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter won 62% of Newton’s 9,000 votes in 1980.
Newton County had doubled the number of voters by the 2000 election when Democrat Al Gore only won 39% of the 18,000 Newton votes cast in his narrow loss nationwide to Republican George W. Bush.
Bush easily won the Newton County vote in 2004 with 62% when he defeated John Kerry.
But with Newton County’s population growth in the mid-2000s came political change. By 2008 and 2012, Newton County chose a Democrat, Barack Obama, narrowly over Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney. In 2016, Newton County voters chose Hillary Clinton over eventual winner Donald Trump by 1,000 votes out of 43,000 cast.
This year, the margin grew for the Democratic nominee with Biden winning 55% out of 54,000 votes cast — which was almost the total number of all registered voters only four years earlier.
Which brings me back to efforts to create a #OneNewton.
This year has been different, to say the least. We’ve had a divisive presidential election, divisive social unrest and divisive response to this pandemic on the state level.
On the local level, we’ve seen divisive events such as county government efforts to remove the Confederate memorial statue in downtown Covington.
Local responses to COVID-19, such as the school system opening with only virtual learning and no interscholastic athletics for the first few weeks of the school year, also divided the school system’s stakeholders.
Newton County voters decisively turned down a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for transportation needs 55% to 45%.
County government leaders took the initiative to get the special election on the ballot. Then Democrats and Republicans showed they could agree on something.
Half of the 12 precincts that voted for Biden said “no” to the proposed 1% sales tax — meaning both Republicans and Democrats agreed they didn’t want to increase the total sales tax to 8%.
We’ll see what the 2020 election will mean for Newton County’s efforts to unite and move the county forward economically and politically in the years to come.
Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at email@example.com.