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Bill Kirby Jr.: There's something intriguing about gathering for election night

Greg West checks voting results at the Crown Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Greg West checks voting results at the Crown Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Photo by Bill Kirby Jr.

Election Day proper began early Tuesday when polls opened before sunrise. With midnight nearing, candidates, supporters and politicos gathered at the Crown Complex ballroom on Business I-95 aware of some of the winners and awaiting other races too close to call.

Barring the political unforeseen, this election season is at an end.

No more political flyers in our mailboxes.

No more political robocalls.

No more political signs staring at motorists at every stoplight intersection.

While some folks opted to stay home Tuesday evening and wait for unofficial election returns on their desktops, laptops, iPads, iPhones and TV, others just couldn’t resist Election Day results at Election Central.

It’s more than a political venue.

It’s something of social outing, where folks like to see as well as be seen.

“I am glad to see our Board of Elections doing this for those who enjoy that time together and for some closure, one way or another,” says George Breece, the longtime political observer of city, county and statewide elections. “I remember the days at the Cumberland County historic courthouse downtown and then at the Bordeaux Motor Inn. Good times and great memories from decades past.”

The crowd of fewer than 100 was sparse Tuesday evening, and few candidates, too, with Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis Wright, County Commissioner challenger Ron Ross and school board member Greg West following the early returns.

Tracking the votes

Those at Election Central were busy Tuesday evening monitoring the static and scrolling electronic election boards, with particular interest in the U.S. Senate competition between Cheri Beasley and Ted Budd; the N.C. Senate battle between former Sen. Wesley Meredith and former Fayetteville City Councilwoman Val Applewhite; the N.C. House of Representatives District 43 race between incumbent Diane Wheatley and Elmer Floyd, who was bidding for a return to his old seat; the competition between incumbent Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Mark Sternlicht and challenger George “Robby” Hicks, an assistant in the county District Attorney’s Office; the four-way race among former state House Rep. John Szoka, former Commissioner Marshall Faircloth, Ross and Veronica B. Jones for two seats on the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners; the county school board race with eight candidates seeking three seats; and Wright trying to turn back a challenge from former Deputy LaRue Windham.

There was plenty of interest, too, in the Vote Yes charter referendum to change the City Council to include a mayor, a district council representative and four at-large council members as apposed to the current structure of a mayor and nine district council members; and the $97  Fayetteville Forward bond referendum for public safety upgrades, infrastructure improvements and housing opportunities.

“All of the races are important to any candidate that is running and putting themselves out there,” Breece says of every race on the ballot. And there is keen interest in the U.S. Senate race between Beasley and Budd because “she is hometown grown and has a lot support in her old hometown.”

 Breece was on target there.

“Most folks are very interested in the legislative races, county commissioners race, the general obligations bonds, which is very important to the city, as well as the vote for the structure of the City Council for city governance. I just hope folks are still standing in line to vote at 7:30 p.m. when the polls close. Voting is one of our most precious rights and is the foundation of the freedoms we enjoy.”


The midnight hour was drawing near Tuesday as the last of the unofficial Election Day returns were coming in and candidates and supporters and others would know the winners and unofficial results of a long season of political campaigning.

“People trust us and what we are doing,” Wright would tell his supporters after earning another term as sheriff. “We’re going to move on and drive on.”

There were cheers and smiles and hugs here and there.

Disappointed and crestfallen supporters, too.

The outcome remains unofficial for now.

“We will canvass on Nov. 18 at 11 a.m.,” said Angie Amaro, director of the Cumberland County Board of Elections, to make the numbers official.

The N.C. Board of Elections has scheduled its canvass on Nov. 29.

And in the words of the late CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, “That’s the way it is.” And the way it was, Nov. 8, 2022, until we gather again.  

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

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